Google Assistant faces EU antitrust investigation

JC Torres - Sep 9, 2021, 9:03pm CDT
Google Assistant faces EU antitrust investigation

Google is no stranger to inquiries, investigations, and even lawsuits regarding its businesses and products, especially when it comes to anti-competitive behavior. From Search to shopping to news to even Chrome, Google has faced numerous legal challenges, especially within the European Union. Even while it faces the latest set of challenges over the Google Play Store, the European Commission is reportedly preparing to slap it another one, this time over how it may be forcing Google Assistant to be the default voice assistant on smart devices, particularly those running Android.

Many of the things that the EU has been investigating might actually be things that consumers take for granted, which is exactly the point. Most Android users will probably expect Google Search and Chrome to be preinstalled, while others might even be annoyed if Google Assistant isn’t readily available. Those expectations, however, might have been formed by how Google strong-armed device makers into making these apps and services the default, blinding consumers to other options available.

According to Reuters, the European Commission is looking into this matter by asking device makers for evidence of anti-competitive practices. In particular, it is interested whether Google is using strategies like its Android certification process to force OEMs to preinstall Google Assistant and make it the default. It also wants to know if Google is also forcing exclusivity by prohibiting smart device makers from installing other AI assistants, including their own.

There are strong arguments from both sides of the legal fence, especially considering how Google Play has long been seen as Google’s bargaining chip in matters like this. That said, there might also be evidence to the contrary, like the notorious and inescapable presence of Bixby on Samsung’s phones or other third-party voice assistants from the likes of Xiaomi, OPPO, and others. While those competitors are arguably less feature-rich than Google Assistant, their existence and default settings could tip the EU investigation in Google’s favor.

There’s also the reality that the voice assistant market has become a three-horse race between Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant at this point. These voice assistants, unfortunately, have also become the latest arena for businesses and regulators, especially considering they can easily become a treasure trove of personal data. If found guilty, Google could face fines of up to 10% of its global turnover.


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