Google is facing a €1bn fine from the EU over market dominance claims
Google is facing a potential fine of €1bn from the European Union after a seven-year investigation over alleged abuse of its market dominance.
EU officials are likely to announce in the coming weeks that the investigation has found evidence that Google has been altering and manipulating its own search engine to promote the Google Shopping service, which was initially launched as Froogle back in 2002 before a rebrand in 2012.
Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, has said numerous times that the EU lacks evidence of any wrongdoing and that the company is likely to appeal the decision.
Intel currently holds the title for the biggest fine for anticompetitive behavior, with a €1bn sanction handed down in 2009 after they moved to block AMD chips from entering the market with various deals and rebates for those who bought chips from Intel.
Google, founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, also faces an EU sanction regarding its restrictions on Android manufacturers, which included "implementing a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search," according to the European Commission.
These practices mean that Google is the pre-installed browser engine on all Android devices, whilst also "stifling competition" as they hold more than 90% of mobile market shares in the European Economic Area.
The Commission also alleged that Google has incentivized manufacturers on the condition that they make Google the exclusive search engine for their Android device.
Android's operating system is open-source which means that anyone can edit and modify it, which is known as a "fork." However, if the operator wants to use Google on its device, they have to enter an Anti-fragmentation Agreement which effectively states that the company cannot sell devices that run on Android forks.
The agreement, as well as Google's incentives program to manufacturers, is reportedly in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on Functioning of the European Union, which "prohibits the abuse of a dominant position which may affect trade and prevent or restrict competition."
Mr. Walker has also rebutted these claims in a blog post, claiming that Android "hasn't hurt competition, it's expanded it," whilst arguing that Google's various agreements are necessary to avoid platform fragmentation.
27/06 Update: Google has been fined a record-breaking $2.7bn for its market dominance relating to its search engine promoting its own shopping service.
China announces 6-month campaign to clean up apps
A 6-month campaign has been announced by China’s industry minister, to clean up what it says are serious problems with internet apps violating consumer rights, cybersecurity and “disturbing market order.”
In an online notice the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that, among other things, companies must fix pop-ups on apps that deceive and mislead users or force them to use services they might not want.
The order is all part of a wider effort to crack down on tech industries and police use of personal information. Authorities have recently ordered fines and other penalties for some of China’s biggest tech companies.
Earlier this month, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) ordered online stores not to offer Didi's app, saying it illegally collected users' personal data. The company’s shares have now fallen by more than 40% since making its New York Stock Exchange debut on 30 June.
The latest campaign in the tech crackdown
The ministry launched this latest campaign with a teleconference call on Friday and issued its 15th list of dozens of apps it has said require fixing on Sunday.
There are 22 specific scenarios it has said require ‘rectification’, among which the ministry mentioned pop-up windows as a specific problem, especially when all the screen of a pop-up window is a jump link with a false close button.
Other various problems it highlighted were threats to data security due to a failure to encrypt sensitive information while it is being transmitted, and failure to obtain users' consent before providing data to other parties; and malicious blocking of website links and interference with other companies products or services.
It also took aim at illegal broadband networks, which it called “black broadband" that failed to conform to website filing procedures or might be subletting or using illegal access to networks.
Regulators have been stepping up enforcement of data security, financial and other rules against scores of tech companies that dominate entertainment, retail, and other industries.