The big picture: Google has already received multi-billion dollar antitrust fines in Europe, and the US Department of Justice is preparing to drag it into yet another fight. It looks like the search giant will have a lot on its plate in the coming years as China is also looking to launch an antitrust investigation of its own, after Huawei and other Chinese firms decried Google’s anticompetitive behavior when it comes to Android.
Google has fought a fair share of antitrust battles in Europe, first for promoting its own shopping services in search results, then for requiring Android device manufacturers to integrate Google apps as a mandatory condition for getting access to the Play Store, and recently for abusing its dominant position in the advertising market when brokering search ad placements.
The fines it’s received amount to around $9.4 billion, and Google is facing a barrage of investigations from the US Department of Justice and 50 state attorneys general on issues that range from acquisitions like DoubleClick, Android, AdMob, and YouTube, to how its search algorithm treats rival apps and services.
According to a Reuters report, China is the latest country that will start an antitrust investigation into Google, specifically around the way it leverages its dominance in the mobile space to stifle competition. This is said to have been proposed last year by Huawei through a complaint at the State Council’s antitrust committee that was reviewed by the State Administration for Market Regulation.
The Trump administration has taken a series of measures against Chinese companies like Huawei, who are now barred from using hardware and software made by American companies or companies that are supplied with American manufacturing equipment and intellectual property. This means that Huawei can no longer order any chips from TSMC or install the latest version of Android on its devices, among other things.
China’s antitrust probe into Google could start as early as next month and would follow the example set by the European Union in addressing the top concerns. The decision will ultimately hinge on the US-China trade relationship, which is currently at an all-time low after the Trump administration decided to force a sale of ByteDance’s global operations to American entities and impose sanctions on SMIC, China’s largest chipmaker.
In the meantime, Google has a smaller but not insignificant antitrust battle to fight in India, after the local antitrust body decided to look into whether the company abused its dominant position in search and mobile to promote its mobile payments solution. Overall, it looks like Google has a lot of explaining to do if it wants to avoid more fines.