EU court rules on record fine against Google

The search engine had been fined 4.3 billion euros for abuse of a dominant position in its Android operating system for smartphones.

European justice rules on Wednesday, September 14 on the validity of a record fine of 4.3 billion euros imposed by Brussels on Google for having abused the dominant position of its Android operating system.

The EU court, based in Luxembourg, must publish at 9:30 a.m. (7:30 GMT) a judgment at first instance in order to confirm, annul or modify the sanction imposed on the American Internet giant by the European Commission in 2018. Brussels accuses in particular to Google for having forced manufacturers of telephones and tablets using its operating system to pre-install its search engine and its Chrome browser to eliminate competitors. The Android system is used on approximately 80% of mobile devices in the world.

The Mountain View group (California) considers the accusation unfounded and demands the cancellation of this fine, the highest ever decided by the competition authority in Brussels. He believes that the EU has wrongly ignored competitor Apple, which favors its own services, such as the Safari browser, on its iPhones. “We are going to explain that (…) the commission closed its eyes to the real competitive dynamics of this sector, that which opposes Apple and Android”, explained the group’s lawyer during a hearing last year. Google stressed that downloading competing apps was a click away and that customers were under no obligation to use its products on Android.

Three big disputes

However, Wednesday’s decision should not close this dispute, which began in 2015 with the opening of a procedure by the European Commission after several complaints from competitors. Both parties will indeed have the possibility of appealing to the Court of Justice of the EU, the highest European court. The case is one of three major disputes opened by Brussels against Google, whose practices are also disputed in the United States and Asia.

In 2017, the Commission imposed a fine of 2.4 billion on the technology giant for anti-competitive practices in the price comparison market. This fine was upheld in January by the EU court. In 2019, the European executive had still claimed 1.5 billion euros from Google for infringements of competition attributed to its AdSense advertising management.

Endless procedures

A victory for Google on Wednesday would be a slap in the face to the Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, who piloted these files. European justice canceled in June a fine of nearly one billion euros against the mobile telephony equipment manufacturer Qualcomm, after having already canceled in January a sanction of 1.06 billion euros against the manufacturer of electronic chips. .

Frustrated by the endless litigation against the digital giants, the EU has devised new legislation to curb abuses of dominant position by the Silicon Valley giants. The Digital Markets Act (DMA), which is due to come into force next year, will impose a series of upstream obligations and prohibitions on groups such as Google, Apple, Meta (Facebook) and Amazon. It aims to act before abusive behavior has destroyed competition.

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