EU Court of Justice dismiss Google’s appeal on competition law

The EU’s general court has largely dismissed an appeal by Google against the EUR 4.343 billion fine levied against the company in 2018 for violating competition law. The court did decide to reduce the fine slightly, to EUR 4.125 billion, after finding part of the European Commission’s case was not sufficiently proven.

The European Commission imposed the fine in July 2018, after three years of investigations found that Google was abusing its dominant position in the search market by forcing Android phone makers to install its apps. This gave the company an unfair advantage over competing apps, thanks to its licensing agreements with Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators going back to at least 2011.

Google’s appeal focused largely on procedural elements of the case, disputing the Commission’s definition of the relevant markets where Google is dominant and the company’s access to information during the case proceedings. The only argument where it had some success was the revenue-share agreements with devices makers on installing its apps. The court found that the Commission did not sufficiently show that this stopped competing apps from gaining access to the Android devices. This subsequently led to a small reduction of the fine, but did not impact the other competition violations, the court said.

The case has since led to Google changing its licensing terms for the Android operating system and introducing a choice for search engine and web browser for people activating new Android devices. The case also fed into the EU’s new competition law on the tech sector, which includes specific prohibitions on pre-installing apps and forced bundling of software and devices.

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