Google announced that it will allow rival search engines to appear in the Choice Screen to be chosen as the default search engines in Android devices in Europe starting September 2021.
“Following further feedback from the Commission, we are now making some final changes to the Choice Screen including making participation free for eligible search providers. We will also be increasing the number of search providers shown on the screen. These changes will come into effect from September this year on Android devices.” Oliver Bethell, Director of Competition Legal at Google, said in a statement.
The company’s move comes as the EU considers rules that could be introduced in 2022 as part of the Digital Markets Act to force Big Tech to ensure a level playing field for competitors.
Google, which has the Android mobile operating system running on about four-fifths of the world’s smartphones, had said in 2019 that, on new Android devices in Europe, competitors would have to pay via an auction to appear on the Choice Screen where users choose their preferred search engine.
Google was fined $5.16 billion by the European Union in 2018 for unfairly using Android to cement the dominance of its search engine.
This week, the company agreed to pay a fine of $267 million (€220 million) and make changes to its online advertising products, which have become a must for millions of ad publishers in the industry, as part of a settlement with French regulators in an antitrust lawsuit that found the tech giant guilty of using its market power.
As part of the changes to the Android Choice Screen, Google said the five most popular eligible search engines in each EU country according to StatCounter, including Google, will be displayed at the top of the screen in random order, while up to seven will be shown at the bottom.
Eligible general search services will not be charged either for participating in the revised choice screen or when a user selects their services from the choice screen.
Google is now doing what it should have done 3yr ago: a free search preference menu on Android in the EU: https://t.co/M9XmB1VuGr— Gabriel Weinberg (@yegg) June 8, 2021
However, it should be on all platforms (e.g., also desktop Chrome), accessible at all times (i.e., not just on factory reset), and in all countries. https://t.co/HcIrE8KJx3