The European Court of Justice’s General Court confirmed a decision by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to fine Google more than 4 billion euros for stifling competition through the dominance of Android.
The court said that “in order better to reflect the gravity and duration of the infringement,” it’s appropriate to give Google a fine of 4.125 billion euros, according to a press summary of the decision.
That’s slightly lower than the original 4.34-billion-euro penalty, and the court said its reasoning differed “in certain respects” from the commission’s. The fine is one of three antitrust penalties totaling more than $8 billion that the European Commission hit Google with between 2017 and 2019.
In its original decision, the commission said Google’s practices restrict competition and reduce choices for consumers. The Commission in its 2018 decision said Google used Android to cement its dominance in general internet search via payments to large manufacturers and mobile network operators and restrictions.
It determined that Google broke EU rules by requiring smartphone makers to take a bundle of Google apps if they wanted any at all and prevented them from selling devices with altered versions of Android.
The bundle contained 11 apps, including YouTube, Maps and Gmail, but regulators focused on the three that had the biggest market share: Google Search, Chrome and the company’s Play Store for apps.
Google said it acted like countless other businesses and that such payments and agreements help keep Android a free operating system, criticising the EU decision as out of step with the economic reality of mobile software platforms.
Google was trying to spin its loss as a victory saying that it was only 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 spokesperson said.
But the ruling will be putting the fear of Jobs into Apple which is also in the EU anti-trust watchdog's sights.
The Court agreed with the Commission's assessment that iPhone maker Apple was not in the same market and could not be a competitive constraint against Android. This ruling could strengthen the EU antitrust watchdog in its investigations into Apple's business practices in the music streaming market where the regulator says the company dominates.