The punishment from Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s competition chief, is expected to include a fine ranging into the billions of dollars, according to people familiar with her thinking, marking the second time in as many years that the region’s antitrust authorities have found that Google threatens corporate rivals and consumers.
At the heart of the E.U.’s looming decision are Google’s policies that pressure smartphone and tablet manufacturers that use Google’s Android operating system to pre-install the tech giant’s own apps. In the E.U.’s eyes, device makers such as HTC and Samsung face an anti-competitive choice: Set Google Search as the default search service and offer Google’s Chrome browser, or lose access to Android’s popular app store. Lacking that portal, owners of Android smartphones or tablets can’t easily download games or other apps – or services from Google’s competitors – offered by third-party developers.
Vestager has argued the arrangements ensure Google’s continued dominance of the Internet ecosystem. As a result, her forthcoming ruling could prohibit Google from striking such app-installation deals with device makers, experts have said. Alternatively, the E.U. could force the company to give consumers an easier way to switch services, like search engines, on their phones or tablets.
If Google illegally pressured OEMs, then they ought to be punished. I’m not sure forcing changes to the default services and apps is the right way to go, though.