Luxembourg, Luxembourg (AFP) – The European Union’s second highest court on Wednesday overwhelmingly upheld the European Union’s standard fine imposed on Google over its Android mobile operating system, lowering the fee slightly on technical grounds.
In a statement, the EU General Court said it “largely confirms the Commission’s decision that Google has imposed illegal restrictions on manufacturers of Android mobile devices” in order to take advantage of its search engine.
But the court said the fine should be slightly reduced to 4.125 billion euros ($4.1 billion), instead of the 4.3 billion euros decided by the commission in 2018, after reviewing the duration of the breach.
The tax remains the largest ever in the European Union despite Google’s arguments that the commission’s case is unfounded and falsely based on accusations that it has imposed the search engine and Chrome browser on Android phones.
The company also pushed the case that the EU was unfairly blind to the power of Apple, which enforces or gives a clear preference for its own services like Safari on iPhones.
“We are disappointed that the court did not completely overturn the decision,” a Google spokesperson said in a short statement.
“Android has created more choices for everyone, not less, and supports thousands of successful companies in Europe and around the world,” she added.
The complainants welcomed the decision because it asserted that Google “can no longer impose its will on phone makers,” said Thomas Fengy, an attorney representing industry group FairSearch, whose original complaint launched the case in 2013.
“This shows that the European Commission got it right,” he added.
The committee said it had “taken note” of the decision and would “carefully study the ruling and decide on possible next steps.”
The general court decision is not necessarily the end of the story. Both sides could turn to the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, to get the final word on the fine, which was the equivalent of $5 billion when it was imposed.
– global action –
The Android case was the third of three major cases brought against Google by EU competition czar Margrethe Vestager, whose legal challenges were the first worldwide to confront the Silicon Valley giants directly.
Since then, global regulators have followed suit, with Google facing a slew of cases in the US and Asia based on similar accusations.
Last year, South Korea fined Google nearly $180 million for abusing its dominance in a similar case targeting Android.
Vestager has already won against Google in its appeal in a separate case, and a €2.4 billion fine for the company for abusing its control over the search engine. As expected, the tech giant has appealed this setback to the Supreme Court.
However, the European Union has lost recent issues related to the microchip industry.
Team Vestager lost an appeal against a $1 billion fine imposed on Qualcomm in the same court in June.
It followed another setback in January when the European Union lost court support for a €1.06 billion fine against Intel.
Frustrated by the length of time it takes to pursue competition cases, Brussels has since adopted the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which imposes stricter limits on the way big tech companies can do business.
The new law, which is due to take effect next year, will set a rule book for what to do and what to avoid for big tech companies like Google and Facebook.
DMA includes specific bans or restrictions on Google, Apple, and other gatekeepers from promoting their own services on platforms.