A529 - ICA: Google fined over 100 million for abuse of dominant position
The Antitrust Authority has ordered Google to include in Android Auto the Enel X app allowing the use of services related to the recharging of electric vehicles.
The Italian Competition Authority has imposed a fine of over 100 million euros (102.084.433,91) on Alphabet Inc., Google LLC and Google Italy S.r.l. for the violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Through the Android operating system and the Google Play app store, Google holds a dominant position allowing it to control the access of app developers to end users. About three quarters of smartphones in Italy use the Android system. Google is a major global player in the digital economy and relies on a very significant financial strength.
According to the Authority's findings, Google did not allow Enel X Italia to develop a version of its JuicePass app compatible with Android Auto, a specific Android feature that allows apps to be used while the user is driving in compliance with safety, as well as distraction reduction, requirements. JuicePass enables a wide range of services for recharging electric vehicles, ranging from finding a charging station to managing the charging session and reserving a place at the station; this latter function guarantees the actual availability of the infrastructure once the user reaches it.
By refusing Enel X Italia interoperability with Android Auto, Google has unfairly limited the possibilities for end users to avail themselves of the Enel X Italia app when driving and recharging an electric vehicle. Google has consequently favored its own Google Maps app, which runs on Android Auto and enables functional services for electric vehicle charging, currently limited to finding and getting directions to reach charging points, but which in the future could include other functionalities such as reservation and payment.
The exclusion of the Enel X Italia app from Android Auto has been going on for more than two years, and if it were to continue, could permanently jeopardise Enel X Italia's chances of building a solid user base at a time of significant growth in sales of electric vehicles. In addition, the JuicePass app could not be included in the list of applications used by users, leading to an impoverishment of consumer choice and an obstacle to technological progress. The Authority also points out how Google’s conduct could influence the development of electric mobility in a crucial phase of its launch, in particular as regards the development of a network of infrastructures for recharging electric cars that is adequate to the growth and evolution of the demand for recharging services. Consequently, possible negative effects could occur to the diffusion of electric vehicles, to the use of "clean" energy and to the transition towards a more environmentally sustainable mobility.
In addition to imposing the sanction, the Antitrust Authority deemed it necessary to identify in the cease and desist order the behaviour that Google will have to adopt in order to stop the abuse and avoid the negative effects of the exclusion of Enel X Italia's app from Android Auto. The Authority has therefore ordered Google to make available to Enel X Italia, as well as to other app developers, tools for the programming of apps that are interoperable with Android Auto and will monitor the effective and correct implementation of the imposed obligations through an independent expert to whom Google must provide all cooperation and information requested.
Rome, 13 May 2021