The European Commission (EC) named a new expert panel meant to advise the European Union's competition watchdog on the Android antitrust case against Google, sources with knowledge of the effort said on Wednesday. The move likely signals that the EC's antitrust investigation into Google's Android-related practices is coming to a close and if the panel agrees with the original assessment that the Alphabet-owned company is abusing the dominance of its open source operating system in an effort to promote its Android software suite, the tech giant may be hit with another historic fine. While it's currently unclear for how long exactly will the newly appointed committee be inspecting Google's case, some industry watchers believe that the probe could be finished by the end of the year, together with an associated verdict on the matter. If the panel disagrees with the EC's allegations, the case could be prolonged or even dismissed though that may not be a probable scenario in light of Google's recent dealings with the competition authorities on the continent.
The investigation into Google's possible antitrust violations pertaining to its Android practices has been ongoing for over a year now, with the case originally starting in April 2016 after a complaint filed by lobby group FairSearch. The EC is specifically looking into the company's insistence to have original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) pre-install Google Search and Google Chrome on their Android devices if they want to be granted access to other Android apps developed by the Mountain View, California-based tech giant. Google previously argued that Android promotes both innovation and competition, thus being a platform that's beneficial to consumers across demographics.
Google just broke the record for the largest antitrust fine issued on the Old Continent, with the firm more than doubling Intel's $1.2 billion penalty from 2009 when the EC hit it with its historic ruling last week. The exact composition of the panel that the EU reportedly appointed in recent weeks is still unclear, though more details on the matter and Google's dealings with European competition authorities will likely follow shortly. In the meantime, the company is still considering the possibility of appealing the aforementioned fine and should disclose its decision in the coming weeks.