EU court largely upholds Google Android’s $4 billion antitrust fine

LONDON — A high court has largely dismissed Google’s appeal against a record European Union antitrust fine imposed for stifling competition and reducing consumer choice due to the dominance of its Android mobile operating system. This is yet another victory for EU regulators who are taking the global lead in controlling the power of big tech companies.

The General Court of the European Court of Justice has largely upheld a 2018 decision by the EU’s Executive Commission to fine Google more than 4 billion euros ($3.99 billion).

“In order to better reflect the gravity and duration of the infringement”, Google should be fined 4.125 billion euros, the court said. This is slightly lower than the original €4.34 billion fine, with the court saying its reasoning differed “in some respects” from that of the commission.

“We are disappointed that the Court did not reverse the decision in its entirety,” Google said in a statement. “Android has created more choice for everyone, not less, and supports thousands of successful businesses across Europe and around the world.”

The company has previously argued that free and open-source Android has resulted in low-cost phones and spurred competition with its main rival, Apple. Android is the most popular mobile operating system, even beating Apple’s iOS.

The fine is one of three antitrust sanctions totaling more than $8 billion that the European Commission imposed on Google between 2017 and 2019, putting the 27-nation bloc at the forefront of the global push to curb the tech giants.

Since then, the commission has expanded its crackdown on digital giants with more antitrust probes targeting Amazon, Apple and Facebook and sweeping new rules aimed at cracking down on the biggest digital companies. Tech companies now face more scrutiny around the world: Google was also fined $50 million on Wednesday by South Korean privacy watchdogs who also fined $22 million. million to Facebook’s parent company, Meta.

In its original ruling, the European Commission said Google’s practices restrict competition and reduce choices for consumers.

It determined that Google broke EU rules by forcing smartphone makers to take a set of Google apps if they wanted them and stopped them from selling devices with modified versions of Android.

The bundle contained 11 apps, including YouTube, Maps and Gmail, but regulators focused on the three with the biggest market share: Google Search, Chrome and the company’s Play Store for apps.

Google had made some changes after the original decision to fix the problems, like giving European Android users a choice of browser and search app and charging device makers to pre-install its apps.

European consumer group BEUC, which championed the Commission’s case at the hearings, said the ruling “confirms that European consumers should be offered meaningful choice between search engines and browsers on their phones and tablets. “.

Google still has a chance to appeal the ruling – but only on points of law – to the EU Court of Justice, the bloc’s highest court. He didn’t say if he would.

The company has already lost an appeal of its first EU antitrust sanction, which it is now appealing to the Court of Justice. The General Court last year also sided with the commission, upholding a €2.4 billion fine imposed in 2017 by regulators who ruled that Google was unfairly directing visitors to its comparison service. price, Google Shopping, to the detriment of its rivals.

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