Google loses appeal against record US$4 billion EU fine

Google, the world’s largest search engine, lost its appeal on Wednesday against a record €4.34 billion fine from the European Union (EU) for stifling competition by abusing the popularity of its Android mobile operating system.

The EU Antitrust Commission imposed the fine on Google in 2018 as a result of Google’s promotion of its own search engine over rival search engines in the Google Play Store.

The EU’s General Court issued a statement in which it claimed that it “largely confirms the commission’s decision that Google imposed unlawful restrictions on manufacturers of Android mobile devices” in order to advance its search engine.

The fine, as determined by the commission after considering the length of the violation, was set at €4.34 billion, but the court ruled that it should be slightly reduced to €4.125 billion.

 

Despite Google’s claims that the commission’s case was without merit because it was predicated on untrue allegations that Google had forced its search engine and Chrome browser on Android phones, the fine continues to be the largest ever imposed by the EU on a tech giant.

 

The technology behemoth further argued that the EU was unfairly blind to Apple’s power, which imposes or clearly prefers its own services like Safari on iPhones.

Google insisted that customers weren’t forced to use its products on Android and that downloading competing apps was only a click away.

 

In response, the EU and complainants claimed that during the early stages of Android, Google used agreements with phone manufacturers to stifle competitors.

 

This proves the European Commission made the right decision, according to Thomas Vinje, an attorney for FairSearch, whose initial complaint sparked the case in 2013.

Google is no longer able to dictate terms to phone manufacturers. Now that they may expose their products to competition in search and other services, consumers will have more options available to them, he continued.

 

The penalty was accompanied by measures that would essentially loosen Google’s control over its Android software, which powers 80% of smartphones worldwide and is crucial to the Silicon Valley company’s operations.

These modifications, which European regulators demanded, limit Google’s ability to have its own search and other apps automatically included in mobile devices, making it more vulnerable to competition in a market it has dominated.

 

While American officials have largely kept their distance from the companies, the size of the penalty highlighted Europe’s increasingly assertive stance against the influence of American tech firms.

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