US internet giant Google failed on Wednesday to overturn a record 4.3 billion euro fine imposed in 2018 by Brussels for abusing the dominant position of its Android operating system, according to a court ruling of the EU.
“The action brought by Google is essentially dismissed,” said the court established in Luxembourg. However, it considers it “appropriate” to reduce the amount of the sanction to 4.1 billion euros in order to better take into account the gravity and the duration of the infringement.
This is a judgment rendered at first instance and subject to appeal within two months.
Brussels notably accuses Google of 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 about 80% of mobile devices in the world.
“The court largely confirms the Commission’s decision that Google imposed unlawful restrictions on mobile device manufacturers and mobile network operators, in order to consolidate the dominant position of its search engine,” the court said. in a press release.
The Mountain View (California) group considers the accusation unfounded. He had seized European justice to claim the cancellation of the fine, the highest ever decided by the competition authority in Brussels (even after the reduction proposed by the court).
The American giant believes that the EU has wrongly ignored competitor Apple, which favors its own services on its iPhones, such as the Safari browser. “The commission closed its eyes to the true competitive dynamics of this sector, that which opposes Apple and Android”, explained the lawyer for the group, 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 lawsuits against Google –
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. Google has 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 euros on the technology giant for anti-competitive practices in the price comparison market. This fine was confirmed in January by the EU court. Google then announced that it was appealing.
In 2019, the European executive had still claimed 1.5 billion euros from Google for infringements of competition attributed to its AdSense advertising management.
On the other hand, European justice had 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 chipmaker Intel electronics.
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.