Google hit with record-breaking $5 billion fine in Android antitrust case

European Union slaps Google with $5 billion fine largest ever issued to the search engine giant

The European Union hit Google with a $5 billion antitrust fine for abusing dominance of its Android OS

The European Commission fined Google $5 billion Wednesday for imposing illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and network operators, including requiring them to pre-install Google apps to their phones. Android is supposedly an open-source operating system that others can modify into a less Google-centric product, but Google's tactics shut down that competitive potential-notably, Amazon (amzn) wasn't able to get any manufacturers to make devices using its Android-derived Fire OS mobile operating system. She said that European Union antitrust laws put a "special responsibility" on dominant businesses, meaning they can not deny other companies the chance "to compete with them on merit". This prevents users from accidentally buying phones that don't work with the Android content they expect, but the EU Commission says it also unfairly benefits Google.

The Commission said Vestager would speak on an antitrust case but did not provide details.

The complaint is centered around the fact that Android handsets and other mobil devices pre-install the Chrome browser, prior to letting users access the Google Play app store.

It said that Google paid some large smartphone makers and network operators to install apps on phones before they were sold.

Google paying manufacturers to exclusively pre-install its search app.

And the decision cites Google's efforts to prevent any alternative versions of the Android system from being developed and deployed.

Google has been given 90 days to end the illegal conduct or face additional penalties of up to 5 per cent of parent Alphabet's average daily worldwide turnover. The European Union's top antitrust official Margrethe Vestager is scheduled to address reporters at 7 a.m. ET in Brussels.

And if manufacturers and network operators did not include Google's app, that could "upset the balance of the Android ecosystem", he added. "Google can not have its cake and eat it", said Vestager.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of CT tweeted that the fine should "be a wake-up call" to the Federal Trade Commission and "should lead United States enforcers to protect consumers".

The commission has concluded that through these contractual restrictions, the tech giant has been able to cement its dominance "in the market for general internet search services, licensable smart mobile operating systems and app stores for the Android mobile operating system".

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said the Commission had overlooked the level of choice Android offered people.

"Android has created more choice for everyone, not less", said Google spokesman Al Verney. Across Europe, 90 per cent of the markets studied by the Commission were dominated by Google. The tech giant can appeal the ruling.

Google has long struggled to address fragmentation of the Android platform, and one of its methods for doing so was also ruled illegal by the EU.

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