Italian Antitrust Agency Fines Google for Favoring Google Maps Over Competing Apps

The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) has fined Google LLC, its parent company Alphabet Inc., and Google Italy S.r.l. approximately $123 million for abuse of a dominant market position, according to its press release. The fine was levied against the tech giant on Thursday for restricting access to an Enel X Italia app that offers electric vehicle (EV) recharge services in Android Auto, an altered version of Google’s mobile operating system (OS) designed for in-car use, according to a TechCrunch article by Natasha Lomas.

The AGCM explained that through the Android OS and the Google Play app store, Google controls app developers’ access to Italian end users, 75% of whom use the operating system country-wide. Reportedly, “Google did not allow Enel X Italia to develop a version of its JuicePass app compatible with Android Auto, a specific Android feature that allows apps to be used while the user is driving in compliance with safety, as well as distraction reduction, requirements.”

By refusing Enel X Italia interoperability with Android Auto, Google unfairly limited users’ choice, the AGCM states. On top of that, Google allegedly favored its own Google Maps app, which also allows users to locate and navigate to EV charge points, though it lacks features like EV charging reservations and payment that JuicePass has.

Android Auto has reportedly excluded the competing app for more than two years. If it were to continue, the AGCM wrote, it “could permanently jeopardise Enel X Italia’s chances of building a solid user base at a time of significant growth in sales of electric vehicles.” Other downsides include lessening consumer choice, limiting technological progress, and influencing EVs and their supporting infrastructure during a critical launch phase.

The press release said that in addition to the monetary penalty, Google must make the tools for programming interoperable apps available to Enel X Italia and other developers, and appoint an external expert to monitor the efficacy of the implementations.

According to TechCrunch, Google denied wrongdoing and disagrees with the AGCM’s order, though it is unclear whether it will appeal. Instead, Google claimed restrictions placed on Android Auto apps are to ensure driver safety. The company also said that “it has been opening up the platform to more apps over time — with ‘thousands’ now compatible,” though it did not comment on why JuicePass was not among those approved apps.