Google only planned significant investments in the European market after receiving a record-breaking fine, according to internal documents revealed in court Nov. 9. The documents, which center a plan called “Go Big in Europe,” were introduced by the U.S. as part of a federal antitrust case. The U.S. Justice Department argues that Google only innovates when pressured, as first reported by Bloomberg. That’s because the elaborate EU plan was drawn up by Google after a massive fine. In 2018, the EU ruled that Google violated antitrust rules by strong-arming Android manufacturers to feature Google search. The EU fined Google a whopping €4.34 billion as a result.
The U.S. government’s current case asserts that Google’s 90% market dominance gives it no reason to improve. Although that may be true, the real problem is that Google may be supporting this market dominance illegally. Google typically pays other companies to make Google the default search engine on their products.
The exact number varies, but it was as high as $26 billion back in 2021. In essence, the U.S. claims that without being fined, Google would rather pay others to put Google in front of users. That’s opposed to the alternative, which is putting that money towards research and development, and earning that market dominance by being the best.
The infamous Android case pushed Google to act
Evidence presented by the U.S. government in the antitrust case presents a series of events that allegedly prove Google won’t innovate on its own. Google imposed restrictions on Android phone manufacturers as far back as 2011, which prompted the EU’s inquiry. These restrictions included requiring phone brands to install Chrome and prioritize Google search in order to license the Google Play Store.
Additionally, it prevented brands from pre-installing Google apps on unauthorized versions of Android. The EU ruled that this was a violation of antitrust rules, and that led to the infamous fine. However, it’s worth noting that Google is still appealing the EU’s ruling.
But more important is what happened after. Court documents shed light on the “Go Big in Europe” plan intended to improve Google’s standing in Europe following the fine. Google’s in-house docs reveal that it planned to hire over 80 new employees and spend $200 million in the EU. The U.S. is making a now parallel to Google’s current actions in its own region.
Without a fine or pressure, it believes Google would rather take what the U.S. considers illegal actions to keep market share. Considering that Google is so far ahead of the competition, market share is its to lose. The question, as with all antitrust inquiries, is whether Google’s stronghold on the market benefits consumers or simply restricts choice.
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