Sunday 21 April 2019

Google to boost Android phone browser options

Legal

Google is to widen Android choices
Google is to widen Android choices

Aoife White

As it was hit with the latest fine, Google was set to give Android phone users in Europe a choice of alternative browser and search apps, seeking to close out almost a decade of EU antitrust investigations.

The Alphabet unit also outlined changes to the way it displays ads for shopping search results.

Before yesterday's announcement, the company had already attracted record EU fines of €6.7bn and a wave of regulation that answers some of Europe's fears about the growing power of big tech firms. Google is responding to criticism that earlier efforts to comply with a 2017 antitrust order on shopping search didn't go far enough to aid smaller rivals that blame the company for falling web traffic.

Results will now show some direct links to comparison shopping websites. Prompting Android users to consider choosing other browser and search programs could also help Google avert fines over another EU order to stop linking its own apps to Android software. Users will start seeing the prompts in the coming months.

"For nearly a decade, we've been in discussions with the European Commission about the way some of our products work," Google chief legal officer Kent Walker said in the blog post. "We've been listening carefully to the feedback we're getting."

Google is also making tweaks to ad displays in local and employment search listings that could stymie early-stage EU probes into those services. Initial responses from some rivals haven't been positive. Yelp said Google's search-result changes only deliver a "marginal percentage of clicks" to rivals and fall "far short" of a meaningful solution that would aid competition and consumer welfare.

(additional reporting by Bloomberg)

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