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Google offers smartphone users rival search engines in bid to end antitrust concerns

Natasha Bernal
Google will offer alternative search engines to Android users in Europe to avoid further scrutiny from Brussels. - REUTERS

Google is to offer Android users in Europe a choice of rival search engines and browsers in a bid to ease anti-trust concerns. 

The search giant will offer users opening the Google app store the choice of downloading five alternatives to its Chrome web browser and search, including Microsoft's Bing and Norway's Opera. 

The changes could help Google avoid additional competition fines from the European Commission, which ordered it to change its behaviour or face further penalties last year. 

The commission fined Google in July for making deals with smartphone makers that forced them to install Google-made apps on phones that used the Android operating system. 

Google said it was appealing the fine in October of last year. 

At the time, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said the decision rejected "the business model that supports Android, which has created more choice for everyone, not less".  

Thomas Vinje, spokesperson and counsel to FairSearch, a lobby group that first launched a complaint against Google on competition grounds, said: “Google’s egregious anticompetitive conduct has enabled it to monopolise the mobile search and browser markets.

"Google’s proposal for a choice screen is entirely ineffective, and completely different from the one that Microsoft agreed to with the European Commission."

Paul Gennai, Google's product management director, wrote in a blog post that the alternatives will begin appearing in the coming weeks. "These changes are being made in response to feedback from the European Commission. We will be evolving the implementation over time," he wrote.

Google has also ended long-standing tension with Amazon over their rival video streaming offerings.

The companies on Wednesday confirmed that Google-owned YouTube will be available on Amazon Fire for the first time in over a year, while Amazon Prime Video will work on Chromecast and Android TV devices.