Technology

Google Could Face Another ‘Even Bigger’ Fine From EU Regulators

Google might have to shell out more (and even bigger) money this time if EU antitrust regulators decide to fine it over its Android operating system. Last month, EU regulators imposed a record fine of $2.7 billion on Google for manipulating its shopping search services.

EU antitrust regulators
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EU antitrust regulators waiting for a second opinion

EU antitrust regulators have appointed a peer review panel to give a second opinion on the EU’s plans, notes Reuters. If the panel approves the initial findings, it could mean another even bigger fine for Google. Citing unnamed sources, Reuters says that the investigations are in an advanced stage, but it could take the rest of the year to conclude anything on the Android case.

Imposition of a bigger fine could be a big blow to Google, but the bigger issue would be if Google is left with no choice but to alter its Android OS. Though Android has been seen as open source software, Google has been pushing some important components into its Google Play services software and associated agreements, notes The Verge.

European Union regulators started probing the Android case after rivals complained that Google was taking undue advantage from its market dominance. Most competitors accuse the search giant of restricting access to the Google Play Store unless phone makers also offer Google search and Chrome apps. The company has also blocked phone makers from creating devices that support forked versions of Android as part of an anti-fragmentation agreement.

More troubles for Google

According to Thomas Vinje, a lawyer for the lobby group FairSearch, the long-running investigation is only hurting the interest of users and rivals.

“A decision would come none too soon. Google is hurting Android users, including by surreptitiously commandeering ever-increasing amounts of personal data,” Vinje told Reuters.

Google is accessing data through various tactics, with the most popular being forcing competitors to pre-install Google search and the Chrome browser, along with other Google apps, claims the EU. The U.S. firm also restricts manufacturers from using any rival version of Android. The company was also accused of paying mobile network operators and smartphone makers to install only its search on the devices.

The EU’s recent $2.7 billion fine imposed on Google was the biggest so far. Though Google’s bottom line will not be affected much, as it earned $90 billion in revenue in 2016, three ongoing investigations could spell even more trouble for the company going forward. The European Union investigation could open up further cases by competitors who are miffed with Google’s business practices.

Earlier this month, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the record fine of 2.4 billion euros would be used for the welfare of European citizens. Vestager noted that in the upcoming budget, the 13 member countries will see a reduction in contributions to the European budget on a pro rata basis. Since Google has decided to appeal the decision, the member countries will probably have to wait for some time, or if the latest Android case unfolds, they could get even more funds to spend on the welfare of their citizens.