As we reported earlier, the European Union issued Google with a major fine. The latest fine of $5 billion is almost double the $2.8 billion fine that was issued last year. This time, however, the fine wasn’t for antitrust practices related to search – which was the case in 2017. The problem this time? Android. Not only will Google have to pay the fine (if they don’t win their appeal), they will have to change their distribution contracts with Android vendors and carriers, in order to avoid future fines.
You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this again? Well, a new report reveals that Google secretly tried to settle this case back in 2017, but it was too little, too late for the EU. According to Bloomberg, Google’s settlement proposals came in the weeks after the June 2017 fine, for the Google Search case. And then Google waited a year before it started settlement discussions. In order to be able to work on a settlement, Google would have had to have reached out immediately after getting the initial complaint. Which is long before the fine would have been issued.
Obviously, that didn’t happen, and that’s why the EU issued the fine. So why is Google surprised by any of this? In fact, Google should have approached the EU in 2016, after receiving the statement of objections, which detailed the antitrust problems that they had with Android. Google lawyers only drafted a settlement letter last August, which offered various adjustments, so that Google could do their business. Bloomberg provides this explanation:
“Google said it was prepared to adjust contracts to loosen restrictions the EU didn’t like, even weighing distributing apps in two different ways going forward. The letter didn’t go into detail, only setting out an outline to kickstart talks, according to the people, who declined to be identified because the initial conversations with regulators were confidential.”
If that were the case, why did it take an entire year, before this happened? Well, it’s believed that the EU never sent a formal response, which actually prevented the lawyers on both sides from discussing the case further. This kind of feels like grounds for appeal. Or is Google actually in the wrong on this one? Then a cease-and-desist order was issued against Google. Apparently, this was the best thing to do in order to enable mobile manufacturers to have an actual choice.
What’s the real problem here? According to the EU, this has cemented Google’s position when it comes to search. Therefore, it’s locked down Android in a completely Google-controlled ecosystem. But is that really such a bad thing? Or maybe I should rephrase this – does this particular case even make a difference? The name Google is synonymous with search. All that said, the Search case was re-opened, and then the Android case was thrown on top of it. It sounds like someone from the EU doesn’t like Google very much.