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Google could face a massive EU Android competition fine in July

The company could be made to unbundle Android from its search business.
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Judgement on Google's ongoing antitrust Android case could be passed as soon as next month, according to people familiar with the issue, and it seems that things aren't looking good for the company. The Financial Times and Politico report that while the size of the potential fine is unclear, it's likely to be higher than the $2.8 billion Google was hit with last year in a separate case, and could be as high as $11 billion, since the European Commission has the power to impose fines up to 10 percent of a business' global turnover.

The case has been ongoing since 2016, when Brussels charged Google with uncompetitive behavior relating to Android. According to the commission, Google's requirement that smartphone manufacturers pre-install Google Search and Chrome in order to access the Play Store gave the company an advantage and hampered user choice. Google denies any wrongdoing.

A substantial fine is unlikely to cause too much damage to the company -- last year's $2.8 billion penalty didn't lead to any significant changes to the business. However, Android powers more than three quarters of all smartphones within the EU, so a direct hit at this part of the company could have more serious connotations for Google's future growth, especially as people continue to shift to mobile devices for their internet habits. Plus, of course, Google is already mired in various other legal disputes.

Depending on the outcome of the judgement, which will be handed down by European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager in July, Google may well have to unbundle Android from its search business, potentially leading to its own "Microsoft Moment". In the 90s and 00s, Bill Gates' company was hit with a string of similar lawsuits in both the US and EU, leading to the break-up of various Microsoft arms and ultimately paving the way for younger competitors including -- you guessed it -- Google.

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