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Google to stop pay-to-play in EU for search engine Choice Screen

Back in 2018, Google was slapped with a hefty €4.3 billion antitrust fine related to how it forced search engine providers in the European Union to pay to feature on the Choice Screen of options (featured in header) when setting up an Android device.

Now, nearly three years years later, Google is finally preparing to comply with a ruling that will stop it from implementing the pay-to-play model and hopefully offer Android users greater freedom in choosing the search engine they want as default.

The company detailed its compliance in a blog post noting that, “We have been in constructive discussions with the European Commission for many years about how to promote even more choice on Android devices, while ensuring that we can continue to invest in, and provide, the Android platform for free for the long term.”

“Following further feedback from the Commission, we are now making some final changes to the Choice Screen including making participation free for eligible search providers. We will also be increasing the number of search providers shown on the screen. These changes will come into effect from September this year on Android devices,” added Oliver Bethell, director of the Competition Legal division at Google.

While the company will no longer charge for featuring on the Screen, it will be placing some updated eligibility requirements should a search engine provider wish to be shown. These include supporting local languages, making its search app available in the Play Store, as well as providing all technical assets to Google.

It remains unclear why the changes have taken so long to happen, given that the aforementioned fine occurred three years ago.

Regardless it is an important step forward for search engine providers in the EU, but it remains to be seen if similar changes will be implemented in other parts of the world where Google operates and Android is used.

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