By Mauro Orru 

Alphabet Inc.'s Google has been fined more than 100 million euros ($120.7 million) by Italy's competition watchdog for abuse of its dominant market position to favor the tech giant's own apps.

The Italian Competition Authority said Thursday that the fine stems from the exclusion of Enel X's JuicePass app from Google's Android Auto feature, which allows the safe use of apps while the user is driving.

"By refusing Enel X Italia interoperability with Android Auto, Google has unfairly limited the possibilities for end users to avail themselves of the Enel X Italia app when driving and recharging an electric vehicle. Google has consequently favored its own Google Maps app, which runs on Android Auto," the authority said in a statement.

JuicePass, developed by Enel X, the energy-services business line of Rome-based energy company Enel SpA, allows users to locate charging points, reserve slots, manage charging sessions and pay through the app.

Google Maps also offers services for electric-vehicle charging, but these are currently limited to obtaining directions for charging points.

The competition authority ordered Google to include Enel X's app in Android Auto and to share tools with Enel X and other developers for the programming of apps that are interoperable with Android Auto.

A Google spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that the company disagreed with the decision and that it would review its options.

"The number one priority for Android Auto is to ensure apps can be used safely while driving. That's why we have strict guidelines on the types of apps which are currently supported and these are based on driver-distraction tests and regulatory and industry standards," the Google spokesperson said.

The exclusion of the Enel X's app from Android Auto has been going on for more than two years, the authority said. It said that this could jeopardize the company's chances to gain a solid user base at a time when sales of electric vehicles are flourishing.

Enel said in a statement that the decision "represents an important enabling factor for the growth of electric mobility in Italy and arrives [at] a crucial phase for the development of the whole sector that can no longer allow further delays."

The fine from Italy's competition watchdog is the latest in a string of sanctions that authorities across the European Union have recently levied on Big Tech players.

In February, Facebook Inc. was fined by the Italian competition authority amid concerns that the social media giant wasn't providing enough information on the handling of user data.

In December last year, France's internet regulator sanctioned Inc. and Google for placing advertising cookies on users' computers from their respective French websites without obtaining prior consent and providing adequate information.


Write to Mauro Orru at; @MauroOrru94


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 13, 2021 05:24 ET (09:24 GMT)

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