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EU lays antitrust charges against Google over locking in Android apps and features

As anticipated, the European Commission on Wednesday pressed a new set of antitrust charges against Google, saying the company is hindering competition by locking in certain Android apps, or even versions of Android, despite it being an open-source operating system.




The charges trace back to an April 2013 complaint by FairSearch, a coalition of tech companies, the Wall Street Journal said. Specifically, the Commission notes that Google requires Android device makers to preload Google Search and Chrome —and set Google as the default search option —if they want to include any other Google services, like Maps or even the Play store. The company is also offering financial incentives to carriers and device makers to preinstall Google Search.

Manufacturers are also often prevented from running alternate operating systems based on Android code, the Commission said. While there are forks of Android —like OxygenOS on OnePlus phones —most major smartphone makers, like Samsung and Motorola, will only apply skins and custom apps.

Prior to this week the Commission was already looking into other aspects of Google's business practices, such as whether it abuses its control of search in other fields, and whether it deters websites from placing ads that compete with its own network. Mobile, though, is a particularly sensitive realm for Google, since Android was conceived partly to tap into growing mobile ad revenue.

Depending on the Commission's findings, Google could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual global revenue for each charge, which would cost it billions. Alternately the two parties might come to a settlement, but regarding the Android charges, Google has insisted it will show that the OS "helped foster a remarkable—and, importantly, sustainable —ecosystem, based on open-source software and open innovation."