Google says competing search engines can appear for free on Android devices in Europe

The Google Alphabet unit has bowed to pressure from rivals and will let them compete for free to be the default search engines on Android devices in Europe, expanding a commitment to EU antitrust regulators two years ago.

The world’s most popular internet search engine move comes as the bloc of 27 countries consider rules that could be introduced next year to force Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook to ensure a level playing field for competitors .

Google’s Android mobile operating system runs on about four-fifths of the world’s smartphones. The U.S. tech giant said in 2019 that its competitors would have to pay through an auction to appear on a choice screen from which users select their preferred search engine.

Google’s turnaround follows a € 4.24 billion fine imposed by the European Commission, the EU’s antitrust authority, in 2018 for unfairly using Android to consolidate its search engine dominance.

“We are now making the latest changes to the screen of choice, including making participation free for eligible research providers. We will also increase the number of search engines displayed on the screen, ”Oliver Bethell, director of Google, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

The changes will take effect in September, the blog added.

The Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google said the five most popular eligible search engines in each EU country according to StatCounter, including Google, will be displayed in random order at the top of the screen while up to seven will be displayed at the bottom.

It previously only allowed four competitors, chosen in separate auctions for each EU country, to be displayed on Android screens. – Reuters

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Rosemary S. Bishop