European Antitrust: Choice Screen on Android must evolve quickly

Qwant continues its fight to allow Internet users to freely choose their search engine on their phone.

18 September 2023

Qwant continues its fight to allow Internet users to freely choose their search engine on their phone.

For more than five years, Qwant has regularly informed the European Commission of the harmful effects of Google’s anti-competitive practices, which deprive consumers of normal access to a diversified offer of search engines. With the Open Internet Project (OIP) collective, we filed a complaint on March 6, 2017 against these practices, thus joining our voice to other European search engines such as the Czech Seznam or the Russian Yandex, also complainants. These complaints allowed the European Commission to find the abuse of dominant position and to condemn Google to a fine of 4.34 billion euros in July 2018.

Two years later, Qwant welcomes what the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has also formally filed a complaint against Google to put an end to abusive practices that harm all Internet users by preventing search engines from offering their services normally, and therefore from investing in their development. After a lengthy investigation, the DOJ, like the Commission before it, was able to verify that Google had indeed used the Android system as a key blocking any possibility for a search engine other than itself to be chosen by consumers.

We believe that these investigations and decisions must lead as soon as possible to finally putting a real end to abuses, by giving Internet users the opportunity to freely choose the search engine they want on their phone.

But the Choice Screen presented by Google as a solution is once again only an abuse of dominant position, which the European Commission must put an end to by better enforcing its pioneering decision of 2018.

By auctioning off a few alternative prime locations, Google is asking its own competitors to be the ones who pay the most, to have the right to be chosen by European consumers. It is asking the victim to pay his executioner. This is not acceptable, and we can see how ineffective it is.

European search engines and most of the most reputable engines are indeed largely excluded from this Choice Screen, and two years after the condemnation of Google consumers still do not have the opportunity to freely choose the engine they want on Android.

It is therefore essential that this Choice Screen is thoroughly and quickly reviewed and corrected, so that all search engines that wish to be accessible as a choice by consumers. This is in the interest of Internet users as well as the credibility of the European authorities, which can no longer accept that their decisions remain without real effect and do not allow the development of solid alternatives in Europe.

Qwant, which Google has tried in vain to exclude from the antitrust procedure, will continue to fight for the recognition of Europeans’ interest in a free offer and for them to be offered a search engine that respects their privacy.

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