Google Is Said to Face E.U. Antitrust Charges Over Android Apps
Google’s antitrust problems in Europe are about to get a whole lot bigger.
The company is expected to be charged with breaking the European Union’s competition rules by unfairly favoring Google services, like its search engine and Google Maps, on its Android smartphone operating system over those of rivals, according to three people. The three, who work in either government or the private sector, spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The charges, known formally as a statement of objections, may be announced in Brussels as soon as Wednesday, though the announcement could still be postponed until later this month, according to one of the people.
The expected charges against Google are the latest in a raft of regulatory problems that American tech giants have faced as the European Union has cracked down on these companies’ perceived dominance over how people in the 28-member bloc get access to digital services.
That ranges from privacy complaints over how Facebook uses people’s online information to questions about Apple’s tax affairs from its headquarters in low-tax Ireland. These cases come after previous antitrust investigations into how the likes of Microsoft and Intel operated across regions.
Google denies that it has breached the region’s tough competition laws, and it will have several months to respond to the charges from the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union.
“Anyone can use Android with or without Google applications,” Mark Jansen, a Google spokesman, said in a statement when asked about the company’s mobile software. “Hardware manufacturers and carriers can decide how to use Android, and consumers have the last word about which apps they want to use on their devices.”
A spokesman for the European Commission declined to comment.
Despite the company’s denials, the expected charges linked to Android, which powers 77 percent of European smartphones, would represent a major setback for the Silicon Valley company as it grapples with a growing number of global competition investigations into Google’s vast operations.
The case against Android also comes as Google is trying to strengthen its position on mobile — increasingly the primary way that people go online — as its traditional desktop business has started to show some signs of fatigue.
Europe’s antitrust officials have already accused Google of unfairly abusing its dominant market position across the 28-member bloc to favor some of its own search services. A conclusion into those separate charges is expected within months, and it could lead to a fine exceeding $7 billion, equivalent to about 10 percent of Google’s most recent annual revenue, the maximum allowable fine.
The Federal Trade Commission in Washington is also looking into whether Google broke American antitrust laws by using its Android operating system to bolster the company’s products. American officials previously investigated claims that Google’s search services violated federal competition rules, though they eventually decided not to bring charges.
位于华盛顿的美国联邦贸易委员会(Federal Trade Commission)也在调查谷歌，以明确该公司是否在利用安卓操作系统支持公司其他产品的销售，从而违反美国的反垄断法。之前做过调查的美国官员称，谷歌的搜索服务违反了联邦竞争法，不过他们最终决定撤销指控。
Other countries, including India and Russia, have similarly either accused the company of breaking antitrust rules or opened antitrust investigations into Google’s activities.
Canadian authorities, though, said on Tuesday that they had closed their investigation into claims that Google had misused its dominant position in online search. They added they would continue monitoring the company’s activities.
Apple continues to generate the largest share of revenue from global smartphone sales. The company also bundles its own services, including digital maps, into its mobile software, but has yet to face similar questions over whether it has broken Europe’s antitrust rules.
Google does not make money from licensing its basic Android software to cellphone manufacturers, but instead earns revenue through digital services like advertising from search, among other mobile services. It holds more than 80 percent of the smartphone operating system market worldwide, according to the technology research company Gartner.
If European officials demand that the company provide rivals greater access to the Android universe — a possibility if Google is found to have broken the region’s laws — the search giant may find it more difficult to promote its own mobile services to users worldwide as well as to smartphone makers.