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Google Loses Appeal Over Record EU Anti-Trust Android Fine

Google Loses Appeal Over Record EU Anti-Trust Android Fine

An EU court has largely upheld a record fine against Google for using the Android platform to cement its search engine's dominance.

The €4.125bn (£3.5bn) penalty is the largest anti-trust fine ever handed down by the European Commission. It said Google had breached its laws by forcing Android phone-makers to carry its search and web browser apps in order to access the Google Play Store in 2018. Google has since changed its terms.

 

The firm said it was "disappointed" by the verdict. "Android has created more choice for everyone, not less, and supports thousands of successful businesses in Europe and around the world," Google said in a statement. Google acquired the mobile phone operating system developer, which today powers roughly 70% of the world's mobile phones, in 2005 for $50m (£43m).

 

 

The European General Court reduced the European Commission's original fine slightly in Wednesday's final ruling on Google's appeal. It said this was to reflect "the gravity and the duration" of the infringement. "The General Court largely confirms the Commission's decision that Google imposed unlawful restrictions on manufacturers of Android mobile devices and mobile network in order to consolidate the dominant position of its search engine," it said. A European Commission spokesperson said it will "carefully study the judgement and decide on possible next steps". The European Consumer Organisation, which represents a network of consumer groups across the EU, welcomed the ruling.

 

Monique Goyens, its director general, said the ruling "confirms that Europe's consumers must enjoy meaningful choice between search engines and browsers on their phones and tablets". She said Google had deprived consumers of "genuine choice" over which search engines to use. "If they preferred, for example, to use more innovative and privacy-friendly services, Google's restrictions prevented them from doing so." The court's ruling shores up the European Commission's efforts to clamp down on Big Tech, after anti-trust fines against Intel and Qualcomm were quashed by the European General Court earlier this year. Google says it was acting like any other business when it told other manufacturers using Android that in order to include the Play Store on their smartphones and tablets, they also had to pre-install Google's own search and web apps.

 

Without that store, the devices would have had limited access to other apps, making them a lot less desirable to buy. The EU says this was unlawful. The appeal has dragged on for four years now, but Google did change its terms after the original ruling, in 2018. The European court lowered the fine slightly to reflect this - but it's still the largest anti-trust penalty it has ever given out. Google says Android offers more choice, not less, and that anyone is free to change their search and web browser apps - but the reality is that most people never stray from the option that came with their phone.

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