Google to offer Android users choice of search engines

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Google will allow users across Europe to choose their preferred search engine when setting up a new Android smartphone from next year, following last year’s record EU fine.

In July 2018 the tech firm was told to pay £3.9 billion by the European Commission competition authorities for allegedly abusing its market position through the Android mobile operating system.

Google has announced it is planning to display a choice screen that will appear on Android-powered smartphones and tablets across the European Economic Area during the initial set-up process of the device.

The chosen search engine provider will then become the default in the search box that is found on the home screen, in the Chrome web browser if it is installed, as well as installing the search app of that provider.

Google's new search engine selection screen
Example of Google’s new search engine selection screen (Google/PA)

“As always, people can continue to customise and personalise their devices at any time after set-up,” said Paul Gennai, product management director at Google.

“This includes selecting which apps to download, changing how apps are arranged on the screen, and switching the default search provider in apps like Google Chrome.”

A first-price sealed-bid auction will be used to select the three rival search engines that will be on offer alongside Google on the selection screen, with choices varying in each country.

“In each country auction, search providers will state the price that they are willing to pay each time a user selects them from the choice screen in the given country,” the company said.

“An auction is a fair and objective method to determine which search providers are included in the choice screen.

“It allows search providers to decide what value they place on appearing in the choice screen and to bid accordingly.”

Margrethe Vestager
European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager called Google’s practices ‘illegal under EU antitrust rules’ in July last year (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Search engines including Google will be ordered randomly on the choice screen when it comes into effect from early 2020.

European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced the fine against Google last year for “denying rivals a chance to innovate and compete”, which she said was “illegal under EU antitrust rules”.

At the time, the technology giant said it would appeal against the Commission’s ruling.

Google has already made a number of changes in response to EU action, such as offering those who open the Google Play store with the option to install up to five search apps.

Chris Price
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