EU files antitrust charges against Google

EU files antitrust charges against Google
© Getty Images

Europe’s antitrust regulator formally filed charges Wednesday against Google, alleging the country's Android operating system violates the continent's competition laws.

“Based on our investigation thus far, 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 Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition, in a statement.

The allegations are preliminary and Google can now respond formally to the charges.

The European Commission said that sending "a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation."

The regulator's objections are grounded in three areas where it says Google abused its power to give its search product an unfair advantage.

The commission charges that Google told smartphone manufacturers they must install the Chrome browser and Google Search application if they want to use the Google Play Store, where users can buy applications and other products, on their Android devices. The contracts also allegedly require the companies to make Google Search the default search engine. Regulators also allege that Google financially rewarded manufacturers that only installed Google Search, rather than other search products.

The commission said in a release laying out the charges that "competition in both mobile browsers and general search has been adversely affected."

Finally, it says Google required companies that wanted to install the Play Store to agree not to sell devices that ran on other operating systems using Android's open source code.

“Google's conduct has had a direct impact on consumers, as it has denied them access to innovative smart mobile devices based on alternative, potentially superior, versions of the Android operating system,” the commission said in its release.

Google pushed back against the allegations, which were unveiled Wednesday morning.

“Our partner agreements have helped foster a remarkable — and, importantly, sustainable — ecosystem, based on open-source software and open innovation,” Google’s general counsel, Kent Walker, said in a blog post. "We look forward to working with the European Commission to demonstrate the careful way we’ve designed the Android model in a way that’s good for competition and for consumers."

It's not the first time Google has faced charges in Europe under Vestager's watch.

Regulators in Europe have also said Google favored its own comparison-shopping service over competitors in search results. The company also disputes those allegations.

Google is a subsidiary of the holding company Alphabet.