EU vs Google: What it means for you?

The European Union's long-drawn antitrust battle with internet search giant Google now includes Android, using which, the EU alleges, Google is promoting its products at the cost of everybody else.

Google denies the charges, claiming that Android promotes competition and is good for all consumers.

What does the EU really want?

The EU wants fair competition. It wants consumers to be able to access all apps, products and services regardless of who runs them.

The EU alleges that Google, which has over 90 per cent market share in internet search, app store and smartphone OS domains in the continent, skews its licencing practices to favour its own products like the Google Play app store, Chrome search engine, its Maps service, YouTube video service and Gmail. It thus penalizes those who give more space to products and services offered by rivals.

Google's behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation," said Margrethe Vestager, EU's Antitrust Commissioner.

"Dominant companies have a responsibility not to abuse their position. Google has abused its dominant position," she added.

However, at the same time, she clarified that the EU doesn't hold any grudge against Google, and that the EU's antitrust principles applied equally on every company.

“We have no grudge against any company. We have an obligation to look at whether behaviour is anti-competitive or an abuse of dominance,” she said.

By prioritizing its services and thereby capturing the market, the EU alleges that Google uses these domains to sell digital ads. Google's overall revenue from these services in Europe accounts for $75 billion annually. The company is expected to earn a revenue of $34 billion worldwide this year from mobile ads alone.

If found guilty, Google will be liable to pay a fine of 10 per cent of its revenue, or $7.5 billion, to the EU and will have to change the way it designs and licenses Android.

What does the battle mean for you?

If the European Union has its way, you will be able to to choose your default search engine, video service, e-mail service, Maps service or even your preferred app store even if you use an Android phone.

As per current licensing practices, Android phone manufacturers 'have to' install the Google Play app store and similarly, do not get to choose in terms of a search app or web browser.

“In short, those tablet and smartphone manufacturers are not free to choose which search engines and which browsers to install. This is not good. It is one of my priorities for consumers to enjoy a wide range of innovative mobile products, services and platforms,” said Vestager.

Currently, the reason why Google's services are so popular and profitable is because you do not get to exercise your right to choose. There may be a lot of search engines, browsers and other services which are brilliant but are rotting away just because they cannot compete with Google's services on an even scale.

However, the contest isn't over yet and may be a long drawn one. Google has denied all charges levelled by Vestager and is determined to prove that it respects competition and its services are good for everybody.

Kent Walker, Google's General Council says that the company is looking "forward to working with the European Commission to demonstrate that Android is good for competition and good for consumers." Google has twelve weeks to respond to the allegations.

The Internet search storm

Google has also found itself in a mighty storm over its internet search results. Late last year, it was found that when customers searched for TripAdvisor or Yelp, the first few results were Google's own offerings.

"Google is now intentionally providing the wrong answers for local searches on the mobile Web. This is not good for consumers or for competition but good for maintaining Google’s monopoly," said Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO at Yelp.

"Google is about as truthful as [Donald] Trump," he added.

"Gimme a break, @google. Search for 'tripadvisor hilton' puts the tripadvisor link so far down you can't see it," said TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer on Twitter.

Google said the skewed search results were caused by a bug. "The issues cited were caused by a recent code push, which we’re working quickly to fix," said a Google spokesperson.

The fact that Google's search results were skewed didn't escape the EU's attention.

“In our experience Google Shopping always comes up first when you search at your desk. This is about consumers getting the best possible results for their queries so they have choice and about businesses being able to present their innovative products to consumers,” said Vestager.

Previous attempts by Google to settle the probes by EU have come to a naught, and any fresh attempts might not lead to any favourable result as Vestager has given the case a 'high priority' since assuming office.

Will the EU be able to prove the allegations against Google or will Google succeed in convincing the former that its services, especially Android, promote competition and are good for all consumers?

Let us know what you think.

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