Tech

Decision in Googles Android antitrust case likely due in July

The European Commission may announce its blockbuster antitrust decision against Googles Android mobile operating system as soon as next month, several people with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO.

The potential ruling, which may involve a fine higher than the previous €2.4 billion penalty against the search giant for other alleged antitrust abuses, according to one person, would represent a significant blow for the U.S. tech company that has denied any wrongdoing.

The individuals, who have direct knowledge of the probe, spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case. They cautioned the final timing for the announcement could still be pushed back until later than next month.

By focusing on Android — Googles popular mobile software that powers more than three-quarters of smartphones in the European Union — Margrethe Vestager, the EU antitrust czar, would strike at the heart of the companys future growth, as peoples internet habits increasingly shift to smartphones and other mobile devices.

In 2016, Brussels charged Google with abusing the widespread use its Android mobile operating system to preserve its dominance in internet search. That included requiring phonemakers to pre-install the companys browser and search product if these companies wanted access to the tech giants other popular mobile apps and online app store. Google also allegedly provided financial incentives to device manufacturers for them to pre-install Google search onto their products.

These agreements, according to EU officials, gave Google an unfair position, stifled innovation and hampered consumer choice.

“A competitive mobile internet sector is increasingly important for consumers and businesses in Europe,” Vestager said at the time of announcing the Android charges. “We believe that Googles behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”

The European Commission and Google declined to comment on the potential upcoming ruling. The Financial Times earlier reported the expected announcement.

The upcoming decision against Android has been long coming. But it represents just one of a series of regulatory headaches that the tech giant currently faces in Europe. Those include an ongoing appeal into whether Google unfairly favored its shopping search product over those of rivals, as well as additional charges that it abused its position in the online advertising market. The company denies any wrongdoing.

As Googles Android software has come under increased scrutiny, the search giant has expanded into other mobile areas, including software to speed up publishers websites that some now say has given Google too much power of the mobile web.

Google is not the only large U.S. tech company to face Vestagers scrutiny. The Danish official already has demanded that Apple repay €13 billion in alleged unfair state aid to the Irish government, called on Amazon to return €250 million to Luxembourg on similar grounds, and fined Facebook €110 million for giving misleading statements in connection to its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp, the internet messenger.

Apple, Ireland and Luxembourg have appealed the state aid decisions.

This article is part of POLITICOs new coverage of competition, antitrust and state aid issues, Competition Pro. This coverage includes the Fair Play newsletter every Monday morning. Email pro@politico.eu to request a complimentary trial.

Original Article