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Google’s Deals With Android OEMs Under The Scanner In Europe

April 18, 2016 - Written By Kishalaya Kundu

Google has been under investigation in Europe for various alleged irregularities, and while the company continues to protest its innocence in most cases, its troubles don’t seem to be ending any time soon. First, it was the tax authorities in the UK that charged the company for its dodgy tax-avoidance practices, which culminated with Google agreeing to pay £130 million ($185 million) in back taxes in the country after having struck a deal with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the UK equivalent of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Then, the company lost its appeal against an indictment in Russia for alleged monopolistic trade practices, when the country’s largest internet search provider, Yandex, accused the American tech giant of abusing its market dominance to suppress its rivals illegally.

Now, it’s the turn of Google’s old foe, the European Competition Commissioner, Ms. Margrethe Vestager, to reiterate that it is “looking closely at Google’s contracts with phone makers and operators which use the Android operating system”. The EU Competition Commission is investigating Google’s contracts with Android OEMs and carriers to check if any of those violate EU’s stringent antitrust regulations. According to Ms. Vestager, “by requiring phone makers and operators to pre-load a set of Google apps, rather than letting them decide for themselves which apps to load, Google might have cut off one of the main ways that new apps can reach customers.” EU’s investigations into Google’s business practices regarding Android had started last year itself, and the commission is expected to come to a conclusion on that front later this year.

Ms. Vestager has also been investigating Google for alleged violation of Europe’s antitrust regulations in a case related to the company’s AdSense service, which stands accused of favoring Google’s in-house shopping service over those of its rivals. If found guilty of being in violation of European antitrust regulations, the search giant may have to shell out multi-billion dollar penalties, with reports indicating that the fines could go up to a whopping $7.4 billion in each case. What’s more, the company may even be required to change many of its critical business practices henceforth to comply with European regulations.