In Depth

Google’s Android fine: Trump accuses EU of ‘taking advantage’ of US

Tech giant was handed a £3.9bn penalty for breaching EU antitrust rules

Donald Trump has criticised the European Union's decision to hit Google with a €4.34bn (£3.87bn) for breaching antitrust rules and abusing its market position.  

“I told you so!”, the US president tweeted today. “The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google. They truly have taken advantage of the U.S., but not for long!”

Trump’s comments come in the wake of “a range of disputes with the EU”, which he has referred to as one of the US’s “foes” amid an ongoing trade war, reports The Independent.

The president’s tweet “seems an explicit reference to the threat that new tariffs could be applied to goods such as imported cars”, the news site adds. The EU, meanwhile, has said such tariffs would be “disastrous” and that it would be forced to take action if the levies were to come into effect.

What happened?

Yesterday, Google was hit by a £3.9bn fine for breaching EU antitrust rules by using its Android mobile system to maintain its dominance in search tools.

The record penalty was handed out after the European Commission found that in anti-competitive practices dating back to 2011, the tech giant had required smartphone makers using Android software to install Google “search and browser apps” before devices left the factory, The Guardian reports.

Around 80% of the affected companies complied with the request, while those that refused were banned from Google’s Play store, used for downloading new apps, as well as its streaming services, the newspaper says.

According to tech site ZDNet, Google was also found to be making payments to smartphone manufacturers in order to ensure its services were pre-installed on devices, and to prevent companies from selling alternative versions of Android that were not “approved by Google”. 

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said the internet giant had been “denying rivals a chance to innovate and compete on the merits”.

Google’s tactics were deemed “illegal under EU antitrust rules” because it “cemented the dominance of its search engine” over its competitors, she said in a tweet. 

The tech firm said it “will appeal the commission’s decision”.

What does this mean for Google?

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has been given 90 days to change its business practices, or will face additional penalties equalling “up to 5% of its average global daily turnover”, the BBC reports. 

The Verge says that Google may choose to license Android to phone makers, which could mean consumers find themselves paying more for devices using the operating software.

This would compensate for the potential loss in advertising revenue, of which Google makes 50% from mobile services. However, the company’s leading position in internet search tools makes this is an “unlikely scenario”, the tech site adds.

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