Australia to Force Google to Offer Alternative Search Engine on Smartphones
November 2, 2021
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by Stephen Kanyi

Governments around the world continue to rein in the power of big tech. In Australia, a regulator announced plans to make Google install a “choice screen” on smartphones so that users can be free to opt for another search engine if they want. This would be a major step to challenging the dominance of Alphabet Inc in the search market.

Moreover, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also plans to limit Google’s deal with Apple to have its search engine the default option on the world’s third-largest smartphone maker’s devices according to a report on Thursday.

“We are concerned that Google’s dominance and its ability to use its financial resources to fund arrangements to be the default search engine on many devices and other means through which consumers access search, such as browsers, is harming competition and consumers,” said ACCC Chair Rod Sims in a statement.

“Google pays billions of dollars each year for these placements, which illustrates how being the default search engine is extremely valuable to Google’s business model.”

The report from ACCC was part of a wider examination of large internet companies like Google and Facebook operations in the country. This was also part of a push earlier this year to make these tech giants pay media companies for content on their websites, a move that led Google to threaten to halt operations in the country.

Google responded via a spokesperson who said that the company was currently reviewing the report and looked forward to discussing it with the regulators and the government as a whole.

“Android gives people choice by allowing them to customise their device, from the apps they download to the default services for those apps,” the spokesperson said.

Such measures if pursued would put Australia almost in line with Europe, a region with arguably the world’s strictest antitrust and data privacy laws.

It may also mean a significant loss in revenue for the world’s undisputed leader in the Australian search market owning about 94% of it.

Tech giants Google, Facebook and Apple are facing a barrage of ‘legal challenges to their dominance across the world. S. Korea, for instance, has favoured Epic in its never-ending battle with Apple over mandatory payment through Apple’s App Store.

More importantly, these cases indicate growing criticism on these companies not only for their market dominance but for their data privacy policies. Governments have taken the mantle of protecting their citizens from exploitation by big tech.

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