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European Union vs Google?

 
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Google has had its knuckles rapped for allegedly abusing a monopoly position with Android. The BBC website suggests they can easily afford to pay such a fine, but I don't think that large cash reserves imply ability to shrug off a fine.
Are the European Union harder on monopolies than other authorities?
 
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The case has lots of similarities to US vs. Microsoft way back when (including that it came too late to make much of a difference for the harmed competitors). Back then the proposed remedy of the first verdict was to break up Microsoft. By that standard, Google was let off lightly.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Sounds like the remedy applied to Standard Oil. I think it would be impossible for the EU to insist o breaking up a US company.
 
Tim Moores
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Right. But they can levy fines on companies operating in the EU.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Tim Moores wrote:. . . they can levy fines . . . .

And they do . . .
 
Tim Moores
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Some perspective from a US-based Android commentator. I don't agree with all of it, but it makes some valid points. Particularly interesting was this part which I hadn't heard about before:

...the part of the EU complaint about Google preventing partners from selling any devices with alternate implementations of Android while also selling Google-approved Android products seems like a valid concern over potential abuse of power.


Requiring Android licensees not to sell any devices without the Google tools on them seems indeed abusive. It reminds me of Intel's practice in the 90s that required customers of their chips not also to sell computers with x86 CPUs from other manufacturers (read: AMD). The US competition authorities put a stop to that.
 
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The USA has over its history been harder and softer on monopolies, although in recent years, it has been pretty soft to the point of practically encouraging monopoly formation. Ironically, this is because "Free Market" ideology, even though monopolies practically by definition are anti-free market, even though most US monopolies (excluding public services) come from free market roots.

On the other hand, the current administration is less chained to ideology and more to personal vagaries, as exemplified by the current trade war, the feud about Amazon "abusing" the US Postal Service (because Jeff Bezos also owns the "Failing Washington Post"), and, if the morning news is accurate, threats to retaliate against the Google judgment.

Mega-corporations rarely have much trouble coughing up a billion dollars or 2 for a fine, and in some cases, it's no more than the cost of doing business. In many, and probably most cases, the companies in question lobby for a reduction, and failing that, a payment plan. It's rather a cliché that American corporate fines are rarely more than a slap on the wrist even when you, for example, negligently pollute the Gulf of Mexico at the expense of the lucrative shrimping, fishing and tourist industries.

Technically there's a difference between fining a corporation out of business and dismembering it. Despite the whole "Corporations are People" idea, a corporation is not an independent entity. To incorporate, you must register a charter with some government body, which in the USA is done at the state level. Delaware is a popular state for incorporation because its laws have historically been very friendly, and the laws of the state holding the charter are generally the ones applicable when litigating. But there's nothing in any state or federal constitution that actually gives carte blanche for corporations to do just anything. If Alabama passed a law capping corporate holdings at 1 billion dollars, it would technically be permissible, although lawsuits would immediately ensue. And in the case of financial institutions, the Federal government can definitely meddle up to and including revoking the charter. Presumably in other ways as well, since Teddy Roosevelt was famous for "Trust Busting". Probably since mega-corporations are almost always heavily dependent on inter-state - and indeed inter-national - commerce, both of which are dealt with at the Federal level.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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I get the impression that multinationals try to hold individual countries to ransom, like trying to move all their operations to where they pay the least tax. But on the other hand, they are also very protective of their reputation and worried about losing face.
 
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This reminds of back in the days when Microsoft "pushed" Internet Explorer as the defacto standard for browsers. I use the word "pushed" as a personal emphasis and opinion only - there is/was many debates about whether Microsoft was too aggressive, or simply an expert in advertising their browser (the fact that it also came with their OS also didn't hurt...). Most of us know all the trouble Microsoft got into with this - which ended up before the courts as a result of numerous lawsuits. This article does a fairly good job of summarizing the whole sordid story of IE.

I will always remember whenever I did CSS coding you could pretty well count on having to code a little differently to have your web pages display properly, as opposed to how they looked in other browsers. I am not saying that Chrome, Firefox, Opera (or good ol' Netscape) were always perfect, but generally speaking, there usually was some little tweak you had to do to get content to display properly in IE. At least, that was my experience.
 
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I like how there are webshops that add a markup to their item prices if you use an older version of IE, reasoning it costs them extra to maintain special code for browsers that don't follow accepted standards.
 
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Stephan van Hulst wrote:I like how there are webshops that add a markup to their item prices if you use an older version of IE, reasoning it costs them extra to maintain special code for browsers that don't follow accepted standards.


Did they disclose that they did it or was it a "secret" tax?
 
Stephan van Hulst
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You got a very big message (similar to cookiewalls these days) when you entered the shop. The goal was not to cover the extra costs but to get people to stop using Internet Explorer. Some of them would even include a snide comment about IE or Microsoft.
 
Tim Holloway
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Randy Maddocks wrote:This reminds of back in the days when Microsoft "pushed" Internet Explorer as the defacto standard for browsers. I use the word "pushed" as a personal emphasis and opinion only - there is/was many debates about whether Microsoft was too aggressive, or simply an expert in advertising their browser (the fact that it also came with their OS also didn't hurt...).



Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Corp. wrote:
Internet Explorer is an integral part of the Windows Operating System.



Emphasis (mostly) mine. This statement was made when US anti-trust issues were being considered. It went beyond "pushed", I think.

And it's true. In most OS's, you installed the browser as an application. If you didn't want it, you removed it, or replaced it with another browser.

IE was different. You couldn't uninstall it. In fact, getting it "uninstalled" was part of the EU's settlement requirement.

But that was bogus. You could de-activate the public façade, but the core IE components were still there, even to the point that other, competing browsers used them. And a very annoying side-effect was that it wasn't really possible to have 2 different versions of IE available on the same machine at the same time.

An IE surcharge wasn't just a European thing, either. Once IE6 fell from grace, some US merchants had similar constraints.
 
Randy Maddocks
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Steve Ballmer - now there was a character!    

Sometimes I swear the way he burst into conferences and gave his theatrical presentations he was drinking coffee with way too much caffeine.
 
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:...I think it would be impossible for the EU to insist o breaking up a US company.



Depend on the actual politic and strategic EU plans. AFAIK  EU and US are in principle competitors but on particular time points  they can be alley
 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
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