Google’s troubles don’t seem to end in Europe. Citing sources with knowledge of the matter, Reuters says the Internet giant may soon face charges for allegedly giving unfair importance to its own apps like Search and Maps through software licensing deals it struck with mobile phone makers that run its Android operating system.
Google being unfair to other apps?
The use of exclusive contracts, with which phone makers may run Google’s own apps (and not necessarily on-demand apps) is at the center of the agency’s probe, EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager confirmed to the media on Monday.
Speaking at a regulatory conference in Amsterdam, Vestager said, “Our concern is that by requiring phone makers and operators to pre-load a set of Google apps, rather than letting them decide for themselves which apps to load, Google might have cut off one of the main ways that new apps can reach customers.”
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If Google is found guilty of market abuse, the EU will impose a fine of up to $7.4 billion or 10% on revenue generated in 2015, and the U.S. firm will be forced to change its business practices as well, Reuters says.
Android: a major source of revenue
It is believed that Google earned $11 billion (9.73 billion euros) last year from sales of ads running on Android devices that feature Google’s apps, Reuters says. Most of the smartphones sold globally run on Android, making it the dominant mobile operating system in recent years.
Strategy Analytics, a technology market research firm, states that Android is an open source software offering freedom to device makers to make software of their own, but a standard package of software and Google apps runs on a vast majority of European phones, for which OEMs need to secure licenses from Google.
When asked whether the list of concerns the EU has about Android has narrowed down or not, Vestager replied, “We are looking into the question of tying, but tying in itself is not necessarily a problem.”
She added that it depends on how the decision to do this is made, and that is a part of their investigation. However, she gave no hints on the timing when her agency could expand the charge sheet against Google.
In defense, a Google spokesman denied that the Internet giant has been forcing phone vendors to sign exclusive contracts and said talks with the EU are in process.