Italy has fined Google $123 million for abuse of market dominance because it restricts developer access to Android Auto.
“The Italian Competition Authority has imposed a fine of over 100 million euros on [Google] for the violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,” the Italian Competition Authority announced. “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 announcement, Google prevented a firm called Enel X Italia to develop and release a version of its JuicePass app for Android Auto. “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,” the Authority explains. “This latter function guarantees the actual availability of the infrastructure once the user reaches it.”
In blocking the app, Google has “unfairly limited the possibilities for end users,” the Italian Competition Authority says, and is instead favoring its own Google Maps app in Android Autio. Google Maps also enables functional services for electric vehicle charging, but it’s currently limited to finding and getting directions to reach charging points; features like reservation and payment could be added later, the agency notes.
Google has apparently excluded Enel X Italia from Android Auto for over two years, a situation that could “permanently jeopardize” its chances of growing an audience base and “leading to an impoverishment of consumer choice and an obstacle to technological progress … 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 the fine, the Italian Competition Authority has sent a cease and desist letter to Google demanding that it “stop the abuse” and allow Enel X Italia’s app to ship for Android Auto.