Technical data

Google loses appeal against record $4 billion fine in EU

The unit of US tech giant Alphabet had challenged an earlier decision, but the ruling was largely upheld by Europe’s second highest court in Wednesday’s ruling and the fine was only modestly reduced by 4.34 billion euros ($4.34 billion).

This is a record fine for a violation of antitrust laws. The European Commission has imposed a total of €8.25 billion in antitrust fines on the world’s most popular internet search engine in three investigations dating back more than a decade.

It is the second court defeat for Google which lost its challenge to a 2.42 billion euro ($2.42 billion) fine last year, the first of a trio of cases .

“The General Court largely confirms the Commission’s decision that Google imposed unlawful restrictions on Android mobile device manufacturers and mobile network operators in order to consolidate the dominant position of its search engine,” the court said. .

“In order to better reflect the gravity and duration of the infringement, the General Court considers that it is however appropriate to impose a fine of €4.125 billion on Google, its reasoning differing in certain respects from that of the Commission”, the judges said.

Google, which can appeal in matters of law to the Court of Justice of the EU, the highest in Europe, expressed its disappointment.

“We are disappointed that the Court did not overturn the decision in its entirety. Android has created more choice for everyone, not less, and supports thousands of successful businesses in Europe and around the world,” said a spokesperson.

Antitrust enforcement

The decision is a boost for EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager following setbacks in cases involving other tech giants such as Intel (INTC) and Qualcomm (COMQ) This year.

Vestager has made his crackdown on Big Tech a feature of his work, a move that has encouraged regulators in the United States and elsewhere to follow suit.

She is currently investigating Google’s digital advertising activity, its Jedi Blue advertising deal with Meta, Apples (AAPL) App Store Rules, Meta Market and Data Usage and from Amazon (AMZN) online sales and market practices.

The Court agreed with the Commission’s assessment that the iPhone manufacturer Apple was not present on the same market and therefore could not constitute a competitive constraint against Android.

The court’s backing could bolster the EU’s antitrust watchdog in its investigations into Apple’s business practices in the music streaming market where the regulator says the company dominates.

FairSearch, whose 2013 complaint sparked the EU case, said the judgment will further strengthen Vestager’s landmark tech rules aimed at curbing US tech giants that come into effect next year.

“This victory will embolden the Commission in the application of its new regulations in force in Big Tech, the Digital Markets Act,” said its lawyer Thomas Vinje.

The Commission, in its 2018 ruling, said Google was using Android to cement its dominance in general internet search through payments to large manufacturers and mobile network operators and restrictions.

Google said it was acting like countless other companies and that these payments and agreements helped keep Android as a free operating system, criticizing the EU decision as out of step with the economic reality of the platforms. mobile software forms.