Paris, August 5th, 2019 –The association Open Internet Project (OIP), formal complainant in the Google Android case, condemns Google's recently announced plan to auction off the space made available on Android devices for users to choose a default search engine, thereby forcing their competitors to make a paid offer to be selectable on Android smartphones and tablets.
In July 2018, the European Commission fined Google €4.3 billion in for abusing its dominant position on the Android operating system by pre-installing Google Search as the default search engine. The Commission obliged Google to bring this illegal tying of Android and Google Search to an effective end by allowing users to choose third-party search engines instead. Considering Google’s obligation to bring the abuse to an end, the OIP condemns the fact that Google now expects its competitors to pay for being findable and selectable by users as this merely exchanges one abusive conduct for another and thereby continues to deprive consumers of a genuine choice and to distort competition.
The European Commission’s expert group on digital markets convincingly advised that where – as in the Android case – “self-preferencing has significantly benefitted a platform’s subsidiary in improving its market position vis-á-vis competitors, [..] remedies might include a restitutive element. In order to enable formerly disadvantaged competitors to regain strength, it may, for example, be necessary [..] to compensate for their reduced visibility or lack of data access in the past”. Google’s proposed mechanism does the opposite. Instead of restoring competition and creating a level playing field, the proposed auction system compels competing search services to bid away a vast share of their profits to Google, while Google Search has benefited of a free pre-installation for many years and any future payments would just be Google-internal accountings ´from one pocket to another`. A mechanism that expects rivals to pay to be treated fairly does not improve the situation for anyone but Google, let alone undo the severe harm to competition caused by the identified abuse of dominance.
In this context, the OIP recalls that European digital companies, as innovators, bring pluralism and freedom of choice to Europe's 500 million consumers, and that any attempt to restrict such freedom must be addressed quickly and effectively.
Léonidas Kalogeropoulos, Delegate General : +33607315126 – email@example.com
Anaïs Strauss, Advisor :+33757503010 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Crémer/de Montjoye/Schweitzer, Competition policy for the digital era, 2019, p. 68.