Google simply made a key concession to smaller search rivals in Europe

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LONDON – Google said Tuesday it will no longer charge search engines to appear on a list of default search engines on Android reserved for European users only.

The so-called “Choice Screen” was introduced by Google in 2019 in response to a record $ 5 billion fine by the European Union targeting anti-competitive practices in its smartphone software.

Search engines would have to participate in blind auctions in various EU countries, where they bid to appear on the selection screen that users see when they set up their device.

Now Google has canceled the auctions, an important concession to the smaller competitors of the US internet giant.

Google said that following “further feedback” from the European Commission – the EU’s executive body – we are “now making some final changes to the selection screen, including free entry for eligible search providers”.

“We will also increase the number of search providers that appear on the screen,” said Oliver Bethell, director of competition law at Google, in a blog post. “These changes will take effect on Android devices starting September this year.”

In 2018, the EU fined Google $ 5 billion for allegedly favoring its own search engine within Android. The company appealed the sentence and launched its “Selection Screen” preference menu to address EU concerns.

But smaller rivals, including DuckDuckGo, Qwant, and Ecosia, complained that this “pay-to-play” auction system favored financially strong rivals like Microsoft’s Bing.

Google said that its selection screen will now instead display a rolling, scrollable list of up to 12 eligible search services in each European country, with the five most popular at the top.

“We have been campaigning for fairness in the search engine market for several years and thus have something like a level playing field in the market,” said Christian Kroll, CEO of Ecosia, in a statement on Tuesday.

“Search providers now have the chance to become fairer in the Android market based on the attractiveness of their product, rather than being excluded by monopoly behavior,” added Kroll.