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EC charges Google with breach of antitrust rules


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As predicted, the European Commission is going after Google on a new front: its Android operating system.

The EC released its ‘preliminary view’ yesterday that Google has “in breach of EU antitrust rules, abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators”.

The charges focus on Google’s pre-installation of its own search engine on Android mobile devices; alleged financial incentives for handset makers and mobile operators to exclusively install Google Search on their devices; and preventing manufacturers selling smartphones “running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code”.

This is separate to the other big EC investigation into Google over whether its search engine prioritises Google services over rivals in its results.

“We believe that Google’s behaviour 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,” said EC competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Google responded with its own blog post claiming that its partner agreements are “entirely voluntary”, pointing to Amazon as an example of a manufacturer of Android devices without Google services preloaded.

The company is also pointing to manufacturers and operators preloading whatever apps they like alongside Google services on their devices; and the ease with which the owners of those devices can “download apps on their own – including apps that directly compete with ours”. Spotify is named as one of the latter alongside WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat.

This is why the case is worth following now: while music may not be the core focus, in an environment where the two dominant device-OS firms (Google and Apple) have their own music-streaming services, examination of whether they enjoy an unfair advantage – and any enforced changes to what can and can’t be preloaded – will be of great interest to companies like Spotify.

Thus far, attention in the music field has focused more on Apple and its 30% cut of in-app subscriptions on iOS, rather than Google and its Android preload policies.

Stuart Dredge

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