The European Union’s General Court in Luxembourg on Wednesday upheld a decision to fine Google a record €4-billion fine meted by the bloc’s antitrust enforcers over the tech giant’s Android operating system’s throttling of competition and reducing consumer choice.
The EU’s second-highest court has largely upheld the huge fine issued to Google by the bloc’s antitrust regulators in 2018 for allegedly abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating system to promote and firmly establish its Google search engine and Chrome browser on mobile devices.
“The General Court largely confirms the Commission’s decision that Google imposed unlawful restrictions on manufacturers of Android mobile devices and mobile network operators in order to consolidate the dominant position of its search engine,” the court said.
The court, however, reduced the fine to €4.125 billion from the earlier €4.34 billion penalty ordered by the EU antitrust regulators, the largest fine ever imposed by a competition authority in Europe.
“We are disappointed that the Court did not annul the decision in full. Android has created more choice for everyone, not less, and supports thousands of successful businesses in Europe and around the world,” a Google spokesperson said in a Reuters report.
Google appealed to a panel of EU judges last year to overturn the EU antitrust body’s ruling that it claimed was based on inaccurate allegations that the company had forced its search engine and Chrome browser on Android phones.
The US tech giant also said the commission’s decision also incorrectly judged them to be dominant in the mobile market and that its actions were necessary to stop the Android ecosystem from fragmenting into many incompatible operating systems.
The EU’s Antitrust Commission earlier decided that the unlawful bundling of Google search engine and Chrome browsers was ‘abusive’ and that it had restricted competition for which Google had been unable to demonstrate any objective justification.
The commission also zeroed in on Google’s ‘anti-fragmentation agreement’ which states that anyone who creates a fork of Android, even as a separate product or under a different brand, will have their company’s Google app license instantly revoked. Another issue pointed out in the ruling includes concerns about Google’s revenue-sharing agreements, which give manufacturers adhering to all these rules a share of the Google search and Google ad revenue that a customer generates.
Margrethe Vestager, the top EU antitrust commissioner, has aggressively pursued Big Tech corporations. The latest judgment is a huge boost for Vestager following setbacks this year in cases involving other tech giants such as Intel and Qualcomm.
The landmark decision also serves as a model for future European antitrust decisions involving tech giants like Alphabet which so far has received the biggest fines from the EU’s antitrust body with a total of €8.25 billion in fines as a result of three investigations launched against it in the past decade.
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