Image by AP

Google has received formal antitrust charges from the European Commission today, which the claim company has “abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators.”

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The European Commission opened an antitrust investigation into Google almost exactly a year ago. After twelve months of research, it’s determined that Google has “implemented a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search.” This, it says, is in breach of EU antitrust rules.

The Commission has issued Google with a Statement of Objections. Among them, it claims that Google breached EU law by:

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  • requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser and requiring them to set Google Search as default search service on their devices, as a condition to license certain Google proprietary apps;
  • preventing manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code;
  • giving financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.

Google has always always denied the charges, and it’s already issued a statement in response to the European Commission. It explains that:

We take these concerns seriously, but we also believe that our business model keeps manufacturers’ costs low and their flexibility high, while giving consumers unprecedented control of their mobile devices... Our partner agreements have helped foster a remarkable — and, importantly, sustainable — ecosystem, based on open-source software and open innovation.

Now, Google has been given twelve weeks to reply in writing to the European Commission and it can request a hearing. The case would be heard by the EU commission, which acts as judge and jury in competition cases. If Google were found guilty, it could be fined heavily and made to change the way it operates Android.

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We’ve asked Google how it plans to proceed, but haven’t yet heard back.

[Google and European Commission via BBC]