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EU says Google abuses its Android dominance

Europe's competition watchdog says the company is breaking the law by requiring phone makers to install its apps in return for access to Google's Play Store.

 Google is in hot water in Europe over Android.

The European Union's competition commissioner said Wednesday she is charging the search and mobile software giant with unfair business practices for forcing phone makers to install its apps in return for access to Google's Play Store.

The EU also maintains that Google requires manufacturers to preinstall its own search service and its Chrome browser, prevents them from selling devices running on competing versions of Android based on open source code, and gives financial incentives to phone makers and carriers that exclusively preinstall Google search.

The charges, announced in a press conference in Brussels, come after a year-long formal investigation into Google and its Android dominance.

"We believe that Google's 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," Margrethe Vestager, head of the EU antitrust watchdog known as the European Commission, said in a statement of objection sent to Google.

Google has 12 weeks to respond.


EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager says she is determined to put consumers ahead of big companies.
Thierry Tronnel/Corbis

The charges could have significant repercussions on the Google's phone business in Europe, forcing it to give phone manufacturers more say in which apps are preinstalled on Android phones.

Phones that run on Google's Android software come straight out of the box with a defined set of Google services such as a browser, search and maps. In its statement, the EU highlighted its concern that the company won't give phone makers access to the Play Store if they don't make Google Search the default search service and Chrome the default browser.

That's a problem, the EU said, because about 80 percent of the smart mobile devices in Europe run on Android. That dominance and Google's licensing practices effectively limit rivals' ability to compete, according to the EU.

"It is one of my priorities to make sure consumers enjoy a wide range of platforms, products and services," Vestager said at the press conference Wednesday.

Google responded in a blog post, outlining "Android's open model of innovation."

"Android has helped foster a remarkable -- and, importantly, sustainable -- ecosystem, based on open-source software and open innovation," Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, said in the post. "We look forward to working with the European Commission to demonstrate that Android is good for competition and good for consumers."

This is not the first antitrust case Google has faced in Europe. It has already been ordered to change how its own shopping services appear in search results after another antitrust probe concluded Google was giving its own services preferential treatment. Google has fought back and resisted significant change. The case is ongoing.

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