Digital SMEs intervene in the EU antitrust case against Google practices with respect to Android

The European DIGITAL SME Alliance is pleased to announce that the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition has accepted the association as an intervener in the ongoing antitrust investigation against Google’s conduct with respect to the Android operating system.

Digital Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) active in developing mobile apps are seeking an end to Google’s practices limiting competition in mobile apps and services, and impeding the emergence of innovative mobile platforms competing with Android.

Indeed, DIGITAL SME shares the European Commission’s concern about Google using Android’s dominant position to limit innovation and competition in mobile apps and services, including in mobile app stores, mobile web browsers, and mobile search. Android device manufacturers who wish to pre-install Google’s must-have apps, such as Google Play Store or Google Search, must also pre-install numerous other Google apps. The ubiquitous presence of Google’s apps on Android devices significantly undermines the ability of developers of competing app stores, web browsers, and other types of apps to compete with those of Google.  Yet, competition in each of these areas is crucial to maintaining competitive conditions in mobile ecosystems – not only for SME developers but also for other SMEs distributing mobile content and services to users on mobile devices.

Oliver Grün, President of the European DIGITAL SME Alliance, commented on the Commission’s decision: “We welcome the Commission’s investigation into Google’s practices.  In theory, an open source operating system such as Android would represent a vast potential for SMEs by providing a mobile platform that anyone can use and improve. However, Google’s behaviour eliminates the benefits arising from Android’s open source nature, since it forces licensed Android device manufacturers only to use the Google version of Android. And Google’s strategy appears to be successful: most consumers are not even aware of any versions of Android other than Google’s own.”

“We are concerned that reduced competition among app stores negatively affects the terms under which SME app developers can distribute their apps and generate revenue, and has implications for developers’ control over and use of data generated by usage of their apps” Grün concluded.

DIGITAL SME requested interested third party status following the issuance of the Commission’s Statement of Objections against Google on 20 April 2016, which contains allegations that Google has abused its dominant position by anti-competitively excluding versions of Android as well as apps and services competing with those of Google.