In July 2018, Google was fined €4.34 billion for limiting search on Android phones. Almost two years later, its rivals claim little has changed and the company is as dominant as ever
From this summer, when you set up a new Android phone or tablet in Europe, you will be presented with an extra step: a choice screen to select your default search engine.
The screen is simple. Under a search icon and a short blurb are four options. One is always Google; the others vary depending on which country you’re in. Pick one of Google’s rivals, and its results – not Google’s – will appear in a home screen search widget and in the Chrome web browser. Its app will also be downloaded to the device.
The change is so subtle that many people may not notice it. But across the continent, it marks a fundamental shift. The choice screen appears in the wake of the European Commission fining Google €4.34 billion (£3.81bn) for breaching EU antitrust rules. On July 18, 2018, competition commissioner Margarethe Vestager hit Google with the fine – the largest of three she has issued against the company – for abusing the dominance of its Android operating system.
Being big isn’t illegal, but the European Commission says dominant companies have a "special responsibility" not to abuse their powerful market position by restricting competition. At the end of an investigation spanning more than three years, the Commission concluded that Google had acted illegally in using Android to ensure that traffic went to Google Search instead of its competitors. The Commission accused Google of three unfair tactics. Google, it said, had required manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search and Chrome apps if they wanted to license the Google Play app store; had paid mobile network operators and phone manufacturers to exclusively pre-install Google Search; and had prevented manufacturers from creating alternative versions of Android without its approval if they wanted to pre-install any Google apps.
Google’s actions, the Commission said, helped it to cement its dominance in the mobile search industry. In Europe, more than 95 per cent of all searches on mobile are made through Googl