EU regulator hits Google with $5bn fine over Android

Amid trade war tensions between Brussels and Washington, the European Commission (EC) on Wednesday hit the US-based Google with a record $5 billion fine for edging out rivals and blocking competition with its Android operating system that runs on about 80% of mobile devices worldwide.

The EC decision comes after three years of investigation. Google has been given 90 days to end its monopolistic practice or face more fines.

Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy for the commission, said Google is using its position as market leader to deny European consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and to block other innovative players. This is a clear violation of the bloc’s antitrust rules.

According to European Union rules, the bloc could have hit Google with a fine up to 10% of its parent company Alphabet’s annual revenue which touched $110.9 billion in 2017.

Google said it would appeal the fine. Its chief executive Sundar Pichai said EC ignored that Android phones compete with iOS phones. It also missed the benefits Android offered to thousands of phone makers and mobile network operators, millions of app developers and billions of consumers, he said.

But the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said Google’s monopoly hindered competition which hurt consumers. According to the group, Google did not allow players offering privacy-friendly services to come up. Many consumers would have embraced their privacy-friendly approach.