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Google lets Android users choose browsers to ease EU antitrust concerns

The European Commission said Google had an unfair advantage by pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on Android smartphones and notebooks.

The logo of Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., sits on an Apple Inc. iPhone smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. The NYSE FANG+ Index is an equal-dollar weighted index designed to represent a segment of the technology and consumer discretionary sectors consisting of highly-traded growth stocks of technology and tech-enabled companies. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
The logo of Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., sits on an Apple Inc. iPhone smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. The NYSE FANG+ Index is an equal-dollar weighted index designed to represent a segment of the technology and consumer discretionary sectors consisting of highly-traded growth stocks of technology and tech-enabled companies. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

Users of Android devices will be able to choose their browsers and search engines from five options starting on Thursday, a senior Google executive said, in a move aimed at addressing EU antitrust concerns and staving off fresh sanctions.

Hit with a record 4.34 billion euro fine last year for using the market power of its mobile software to block rivals in areas such as internet browsing, Alphabet unit Google was also ordered to come up with a proposal to give its rivals a fair chance.

The European Commission said Google had an unfair advantage by pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on Android smartphones and notebooks.

The company last month said it would let Android users choose their browser and search engine but did not provide details. Android users in Europe who open Google's app store Google Play will now see new screens with an option to download different search apps and browsers, Paul Gennai, its product management director, said in a blog.

"Two screens will surface: one for search apps and another for browsers, each containing a total of five apps, including any that are already installed," he said.

The five apps are chosen based on their popularity, which is determined based on industry data and the number of downloads in each country. They will then be listed in a random order.

"Where a user downloads a search app from the screen, we'll also ask them whether they want to change Chrome's default search engine the next time they open Chrome," Gennai said.

The new options will appear on both existing and new Android phones in Europe.

Google faces a fine up to 5% of Alphabet's average daily worldwide turnover if it fails to comply with the EU order to stop anti-competitive practices. Lobbying group FairSearch whose Android complaint triggered the EU investigation urged regulators to take a tougher line.

"Fairsearch rejects as insufficient Google's launch today of a choice screen for Android because it does nothing to correct the central problem that Google apps will remain the default on all Android devices," it said in a statement.

 

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