After it was fined a record-breaking $5 billion for not following antitrust laws in the EU, search giant Google recently announced that, starting early 2020, Android users in Europe will see a new choice screen allowing them to choose between four search providers, including itself.
“Next year, we’ll introduce a new way for Android users to select a search provider to power a search box on their home screen and as the default in Chrome (if installed),” the company announced in a blogpost. A Google spokeswoman told Techcrunch that these changes will only be supported on new phones.
Search providers can apply to become part of the choice of search engines that people will have when setting their mobile phones up. “Google will conduct auctions on a per-country basis for the period from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. Following the initial round of auctions,” said the company in the blog post announcement.
Every country of the EU will state the price they are willing to pay when a search is being made using their search engine instead of Google. The company will then chose the three highest bidder who “meet or exceed the bid threshold.” There will be a minimum bid threshold although it has not been announced yet. Google said in the case of a tie among bidders, then the company will allocate the slots randomly among them.
Moreover, if there are fewer than three eligible bidders, the company will randomly chose from eligible search providers.
Google’s decision has been compared by some media outlets to what Microsoft Corp did in 2009, which led to the downgrading of Internet Explorer. The difference, however, is that Microsoft did not charge their competitors whereas Google is opening an auction against its rivals. And that has some search providers worried.
According to Bloomberg news, Eric Leandri, chief executive of Paris-based search engine Qwant, called Google’s move “a total abuse of the dominant position” to “ask for cash just for showing a proposal of alternatives.”
“Google basically did two moves in one,” Amandeep Midha, Principal Lead at a technology firm tells Communicate, adding that with this latest move, the company fulfils its legal requirement while showing that people prefer its search engine.
Indeed, the EU ruling aims to avoid a Google monopoly over Android devices by forbidding it from tying Chrome and its other applications to Android devices. The EU antitrust boss, competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, has been the lead voice pushing tech companies to comply with regulations.
“How Vestager behaves and how the EU Competition Commission acts is that they are simply against any large company,” says Midha who sees Google’s move as a strategy to deal with Vestager.
Similar decisions could be implemented across markets where Google and other tech giants are charged with monopoly.