Google Appeals EU’s 2018 Antitrust Fine

Google is currently in court in Europe as it seeks to dismiss one of the record-breaking antitrust fines levied against it in 2018.

According to Reuters, Google told Europe’s second-highest court (the General Court) that the payments it made to phone makers to only pre-install Google Search on their devices was not aimed at preventing competition, but instead was necessary for Android to seize market share from Apple.

Google of course was hit hard by multiple antitrust fines levied against it by European officials in recent years.

Antitrust fines

In 2017 the European Commission had fined Google 2.4bn euros after the Commission ruled that Google had thwarted rivals of shopping comparison websites.

Then in July 2018 the European Commission fined Google a record 4.3 billion euros for commercial practices related to its Android mobile operating system.

And then in March 2019 European antitrust regulators once again fined Google 1.49bn euros concerning the firm’s AdSense advertising service.

It is this second, 4.3bn euro Android fine, that Google is currently appealing against in the General Court, in a week long hearing.

It is also appealing against the EC order to loosen its search engine grip on Android devices.

The European Commission (Europe’s competition watchdog) had challenged two kinds of deals Google had made with phone makers. The first deal was payments for only pre-installing Google Search on their devices known as revenue sharing arrangements (RSAs) because these shut out rivals.

Making Android appealing

This was not the case and the payments were just to encourage phone makers, which were already generating money from other apps, to give Android a place, Google lawyer Assimakis Komninos was quoted by Reuters as telling the court.

“Google had to offer an offsetting revenue stream,” he reportedly said. “An incentive to convince them to open up and adopt the Android platform. At the same time, the RSAs also helped them to keep prices down and compete more successfully with Apple.”

“And obviously, Google was getting in return a promotional opportunity, sole preinstallation, which allowed it to invest in a free OS (operating system), a free app store and so on,” he added.

On top of that, the RSAs only covered 5 percent of the market, Komninos said.

But the European Commission is sticking to its guns, and its lawyer, Nicholas Khan, rejected the claim.

“What concerned them was competitors gaining traction,” he said and the RDAs were “the pinnacle of Google’s interlocking practices”.

A verdict in this appeal case is only expected to arrive some time in 2022.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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