Last March Google was fined a record $5 billion by the EU over antitrust charges related to the company tying its browser and search engine to the Android OS. It appears the company has found a way to abide by the law while charging its competitors at the same time, according to The Verge.
Starting March 1, EU citizens will be given a choice of four search engines—including Google—to use as the default search for Chrome, as well as the Android search box. To select the search engines that will appear, Google opted for an auction system.
“The search engines shown to new users will vary for each EU country, with the selection decided based on a ‘fourth-price’ auction system. Each provider tells Google how much it’s willing to pay the company every time a user selects their product as the default. The three highest bidders are then shown to users, with the chosen provider paying Google the amount offered by the fourth-highest bid. This process is repeated every four months.”
Under this system, Microsoft’s Bing is now only shown as an option in the UK and not in any other EU country. In all likelihood, this is because the UK has higher search ad revenue than other countries, and Microsoft was likely unwilling to pay a higher price for less profitable markets.
As The Verge goes on to highlight, many of Google’s competitors are not happy with what is being perceived as a “pay-to-play auction” they feel goes against the spirit of the EU’s ruling. Given the close eye the EU has kept on Google, it will be interesting to see if they step in as a result of Google’s “solution.”