Google begins appeal against record €4.34 billion Android antitrust fine

The tech giant will argue that the open source operating system has created more choice and supports thousands of successful businesses in Europe

Google on Monday launched its appeal to overturn a €4.34 billion antitrust fine levied by the European Commission (EC) in 2018.

Google was hit with the fine, which remains the largest antitrust fine handed out by the regulator to date, for breaking antitrust rules, with the EC claiming the tech giant is abusing its power by forcing smartphone manufacturers to adopt Android and its associated apps as default. 

"Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine," Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said at the time. "These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules."

The company is attempting to overturn this record-breaking fine in a five-day appeal this week at the General Court of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. During the first day of arguments on Monday, Google criticised EU antitrust regulators for ignoring rival Apple, Reuters reports.

“The Commission shut its eyes to the real competitive dynamic in this industry, that between Apple and Android,” Google’s lawyer Meredith Pickford told the court. “By defining markets too narrowly and downplaying the potent constraint imposed by the highly powerful Apple, the Commission has mistakenly found Google to be dominant in mobile operating systems and app stores, when it was in fact a vigorous market disrupter,” he added.

In response, the EC's Nicholas Khan told the court that "bringing Apple into the picture doesn't change things very much. Google and Apple pursue different models." 

Google is that also expected to argue that its free and open source Android operating systems has led to lower-priced phones, created more choice, and supports thousands of successful businesses in Europe and around the world. 

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While the five-day hearing will take place this week, a verdict may not be determined until 2022. 

Since 2017, the Commission has hit Google with over €8 billion in antitrust fines. In addition to the €4.34 billion fine, the EC in 2017 fined Google €2.42 billion for abusing its dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to Google's own comparison shopping service. It also fined Google almost €1.5 billion for allegedly imposing a number of restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites which stopped Google's rivals from placing their search adverts on these websites. 

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