Google hits back at EU over record fine for Android
Google hit back in court on Monday against the EU, appealing a record fine imposed by the bloc for monopoly practices with its Android operating system on mobile devices.
The fine of 4.3 billion euros ($ 5 billion), imposed by the European Commission in 2018, was the heaviest ever imposed on the American search engine juggernaut.
The ongoing case before the EU General Court is a major test for European competition supremo Margerthe Vestager, who has already lost an appeal from Apple and Ireland over taxes.
Google says the EU’s accusations about its highly popular operating system are unfounded and wrongly accuse it of blocking rivals on its search and mapping apps on Android phones.
“Android is indeed an outstanding achievement in the power of competition in action,” Google lawyer Meredith Pickford told a five-judge panel.
In addition, the company maintains that the EU case is unfairly blind to the presence of Apple, which enforces or clearly gives preference to its own services such as Safari on iPhone.
– ‘Critical time’ –
“We will explain that … the commission has turned a blind eye to the real competitive dynamics in this industry, that between Apple and Android,” said Pickford.
He also said that downloading competing apps is just a click away and customers are in no way linked to Google products on Android.
The EU and its backers argue that Google used contracts with early Android phone makers to stifle rivals.
This was done “at a critical time in the development of mobile computing, when the market was still questionable,” said Thomas Vinje, an attorney representing FairSearch, whose original complaint launched the case in 2015.
The Android case was the third of three big cases brought against Google by Vestager, whose legal challenges were the first in the world to directly tackle the giants of Silicon Valley.
Since then, global regulators have followed suit, with Google facing a barrage of cases in the United States and Asia on the basis of similar accusations.
A court victory for Google, however, could turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.
Brussels is in the process of drafting new legislation to more tightly regulate Big Techs, with the EU frustrated by the time it takes to prosecute competition cases.
Known as the Digital Markets Act, the new law would establish a set of do’s and don’ts for big tech companies like Google and Facebook.
This could include specific bans or limits on those companies that promote their own services on platforms.
pso-arp / rmb / lth