Ross D. Franklin / AP
LONDON – Google addressed a European Union higher court on Monday to appeal a record antitrust penalty imposed by the EU for stifling competition through dominance of its Android operating system.
The company is fighting a 2018 decision by the EU Executive Commission, the bloc’s top antitrust agent, which resulted in the 4.34 billion euros ($ 5 billion) fine, which is still the largest fine. ever imposed by Brussels for anti-competitive behavior.
It’s one of three antitrust penalties totaling more than $ 8 billion that the commission hit Google with between 2017 and 2019. The others focused on shopping and search, and the California company is appealing all three. While the penalties involved huge sums, critics point out that Google can easily afford them and that the penalties have done little to expand competition.
In its original decision, the commission said Google’s practices restrict competition and reduce options for consumers.
However, Google plans to argue that free and open source Android has led to lower-priced phones and has stimulated competition with its main rival, Apple.
“Android has created more options for everyone, not less, and supports thousands of successful companies in Europe and around the world. This case is not supported by fact or law,” the company said when the hearing of five was opened. days in the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Communities.
The EU Commission declined to comment. The court’s decision is not expected until next year.
Android is the most popular mobile operating system, surpassing even Apple’s iOS, and is found on four out of five devices in Europe.
The Commission ruled that Google violated EU rules by requiring smartphone makers to grab a bundle of Google apps if they wanted any, and prevented them from selling devices with modified versions of Android.
The bundle contains 11 apps, including YouTube, Maps, and Gmail, but regulators focused on the three with the largest market share: Google Search, Chrome, and the company’s Play Store for apps.
Google’s position is that because Android is open source and free, phone manufacturers or consumers can decide for themselves which applications to install on their devices. And because it is the only one that bears the costs of Android development and maintenance, Google has to find ways to recoup that expense, so its solution is to include applications that will generate revenue, namely Search and Chrome.
The company also argues that just because its apps come pre-installed on Android phones doesn’t mean users are barred from downloading rival services.
The Commission also opposed Google payments to wireless service providers and phone manufacturers to exclusively pre-install the Google search application. But Google said those deals represented less than 5% of the market, so they couldn’t hurt rivals.
Following the ruling, Google made some changes to address the issues, including the ability to offer European Android users a browser and search app option, and charge device manufacturers to pre-install their apps.