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Google Fined $5 Billion By EU For Breaking Antitrust Rules


Google says it will appeal a record fine of more than $5 billion for violating European Union antitrust laws. It's the latest move by European officials to regulate American tech giants. Here's NPR's Laura Sydell.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Google doesn't charge for its Android operating system. Makers of phones and tablets can use it and adapt it for their own needs. Major manufacturers, such as Samsung, HTC and Huawei use Android. The operating system is now on roughly 80 percent of the world's smartphones.

Google requires its Chrome browser and search engine to be automatically installed on phones that use Android. Margrethe Vestager, the EU Commissioner for Competition, says that stifles competition.


MARGRETHE VESTAGER: This is about Google behavior - a behavior that's illegal for a dominant company because it's locking down competition and disabling innovation and choice that we would all like to enjoy.

SYDELL: One competitor of Google is the nonprofit Mozilla, which makes the Firefox browser. In a statement, Mozilla's Chief Operating Officer Denelle Dixon said she was hopeful that the EU's actions would help level the playing field for mobile browsers. Google has 90 days to change the agreements with mobile device manufacturers and pay the massive fines.

In a statement, Google CEO Sundar Pichai suggested that the company might have to start charging for using the Android system, which has been free. He also pointed out that users can download other browsers and apps and that many users do just that.

Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute, says Europe has been much more aggressive in its oversight of tech giants than the U.S. It has asked Apple and Amazon to hand over what it says are unpaid taxes.

In May, the EU began enforcement of a strict privacy law that affects companies like Google and Facebook. But Moss thinks the EU order is actually too little too late. Moss thinks these companies have been allowed to get too big.

DIANA MOSS: And that's been the result of very lax enforcement. And so now we are facing the difficult problem of how to attack these competition problems.

SYDELL: Moss believes a better remedy would be to force Google to spin off its Android division. She and others compare the EU remedy to what happened to Microsoft in the 1990s. Microsoft was charged with antitrust violations for bundling its Internet Explorer browser into its Windows operating system. Microsoft settled, but that took years. And experts expect that the fight between Google and the EU has just begun. Laura Sydell, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.
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