September 27, 2021
Today, Google begins a week-long court case at the European Union’s General Court in Luxembourg in an attempt to quash a 2018 European Commission (EC) ruling that slapped the US search giant with a record-breaking €4.34 billion (US$5 billion) penalty – apparently the largest antitrust fine the EU has ever imposed.
The fine was levied for what the EU's executive arm viewed as abuse of Google's market dominance in terms of how it controls the use of its Android operating system.
The penalty also dwarfed the previous €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) knuckle-rapper Google was handed down in 2017 for what was deemed to be unfair promotion of its own shopping-comparison services in its search results.
Overall, Google has racked up more than €8 billion ($9.36 billion) in EU antitrust fines in the last decade over search, shopping and Android. The EU launched another major probe — into Google's advertisement services — in June this year.
Big battle ahead
In terms of the Android OS antitrust charge, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy in the EU and has been portrayed as Europe's "tech-slayer in chief," said in 2018 that Google "has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine."
"These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere."
As reported by Bloomberg and others, Google plans to spend the next five days telling judges that the EC was just plain wrong, particularly when it comes to the demand to change allegedly anti-competitive contracts with manufacturers that make smartphones running its Android operating system.
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Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai previously wrote in a blog that they believe Android creates more choice, not less.
A key issue is the EU's findings against contracts that require Android-based smartphone makers to take Google's search and browser apps, and other Google services when they want to license the Play app store.
The courtroom battle is set to be of considerable interest on both sides of the pond: Tommaso Valletti, an economics professor atImperial College in London, told Bloomberg that the case "is going to be a big precedent for the US" where "exactly the same issues" are under investigation. A ruling is expected to take as long as a year to emerge.
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading
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