Google Wins Android Phone Maker Backing In EU Antitrust Appeal

Google has secured the backing of two Android smartphone makers in its appeal against the mammoth Android antitrust fine.

In July 2018, the European Commission had fined Google a record 4.3 billion euros (£3.83bn) for commercial practices related to its Android mobile operating system, the world’s highest ever antitrust penalty.

The EU’s executive arm also ordered Google to change the way search and browsing applications are placed on Android devices, giving the company 90 days to change contracts with handset makers that oblige them to give prominent place to Google’s own services.

Google appeal

Google had been facing antitrust trouble in Europe over Android, ever since rivals including FairSearch, Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle filed their initial complaints way back in 2013.

But the official EU antitrust investigation only began in April 2015, and in 2016 it was reported that the EU competition boss planned to levy a large fine against Google and would order it to stop giving revenue-sharing payments to smartphone makers to pre-install only Google Search.

In July 2018 Google was hit with the Android antitrust fine, but the search engine giant opted to appeal against the penalty.

And now according to Reuters, Europe’s second-highest court (the Luxembourg-based General Court) has allowed Android phone maker Gigaset and HMD Global Oy to intervene in the lawsuit.

Gigaset Communications GmbH is based in Germany, and HMD Global Oy is based in Finland. Somewhat ironically (considering that Nokia was one of the original firms that had filed the Android complaint), HMD is now the exclusive license holder for Nokia branded phones.

The court document reportedly said that both firms can take part in the process in support of Google.

The judges meanwhile also apparently allowed tech lobbying group Application Developers Alliance, web browser Opera Software and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, to intervene.

But the ruling was not one sided, as the European Commission also landed some organisations that are allowed to intervene, including the European Consumer Organisation, lobbying group FairSearch (again one of the original firms that had first filed the Android complaint in 2013), Czech search engine Seznam, French search engine Qwant and two German publishing groups, VDZ and BDZV.

The actual appeal against the fine is expected to begin next year.

Antitrust fines

Google has been stung with three antitrust fines in the space of two years.

In 2017 the European Commission fined Google 2.4bn euros (£2.01bn) after the Commission ruled that Google had thwarted rivals of shopping comparison websites.

Then in July 2018 the European Commission fined Google the record 4.3 billion euros (£3.83bn) 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 (£1.3bn) concerning the firm’s AdSense advertising service.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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