Google must be used to being fined by antitrust enforcement agencies around the world by now. The latest they have received is a $ 123 million fine from the Italian Antitrust Authority (AGCM) due to a third-party app that was restricted from Android Auto. The watchdog said Google violated Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, abusing its dominant position by restricting access to its platform and ordering them to make the app and other third-party apps available on Android Auto.
The issue that has earned the ire of Italy’s antitrust watchdog is that of an electric car charging app called JuicePass, created by energy company Enel X Italia. While the app is still accessible via an Android smartphone, not having it on the Android Auto platform defeats the purpose. The platform aims to reduce the times drivers should reach for their phones while driving, so that apps that aren’t there get fewer users for their target market.
The AGCM says Google should give JuicePass and other third-party app developers interoperability with Android Auto. The app offers a wide range of EV services including finding charging stations, reserving a spot at a station, and managing the charging session itself. By rejecting interoperability, they say Google has “unfairly limited the ability of end users” to take advantage of these services.
Under European Union law, companies with a dominant position have a responsibility not to restrict competition in other markets in which they operate. In this particular case, the AGCM is concerned that Google’s conduct actually affects the development of electric mobility, which is still in a crucial phase. They say they will monitor Google’s compliance with this order, including providing third-party developers with access to Android Auto.
For its part, Google disagrees with the order and says it has not violated any antitrust rules. They claim that the restrictions they place on apps’ access to Android Auto is to ensure that drivers aren’t restricted. They also say that they have granted access to more applications over time and “thousands” of applications are now supported on the platform. They did not specifically say whether they will appeal the ruling.