Google’s Android mobile operating system runs on about four-fifths of the world’s smartphones. The U.S. technical giant said in 2019 that rivals would have to pay via an auction for appearing on a choice screen on new Android devices in Europe from which users select their preferred search engine.
The move by the world’s most popular internet search engine comes as the 27-country bloc considers rules that could be introduced next year heavy weights like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook to ensure a level playing field for competitors.
Google’s change of heart followed a 4.24 billion euro fine handed out by the European Commission, the EU antitrust authority, in 2018 for unfairly using Android to cement the dominance of its search engine. Google is now making some final changes to the Choice Screen including making participation free for eligible search providers and also increasing the number of search providers shown on the screen.
The five most popular eligible search engines in each EU country, including Google, would be displayed in random order at the top of the screen while up to seven will be shown at the bottom.
Search engine Ecosia, which together with four other rivals complained about Google’s initial proposal to the Commission last year, welcomed the changes. Search providers now have a chance to compete more fairly in the Android market, based on the appeal of their product, rather than being shut out by monopolistic behaviour.