Google loses appeal of $4B EU antitrust fine over Android

SCIENCE & TECH: Google loses appeal of $4B EU antitrust fine over Android

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Alphabet, the parent company of Google, was ordered to pay nearly $4 billion Wednesday after a European court largely slapped down the search giant’s appeal of a record-breaking fine for throttling competition and reducing consumer choice through the dominance of its mobile Android operating system.

The European Court of Justice’s General Court mostly confirmed a 2018 decision by the EU’s executive Commission to punish Google, reducing the initial $4.33 billion judgment to $3.99 billion.

The European Commission in its original verdict determined Google broke EU rules by compelling smartphone manufacturers to offer a bundle of pre-installed Google apps – including YouTube, Maps, and Gmail along with Google Search and Chrome –  in its Play Store. The decision also found that Google prevented the sale of altered versions of the operating system. 

Google’s original $4.33 billion fine was shaved after the court threw out part of the decision that accused the company of making deals with manufacturers to sell Google Search pre-installed and not competing search engines. 

The company has previously argued that free and open-source Android has resulted in low-cost phones and driven competition with its chief rival, Apple. Android is the most popular mobile operating system, beating even Apple’s iOS.

“We are disappointed that the Court did not annul the decision in full,” said a company spokesperson after the decision was handed down. 

EU consumer group BEUC, which argued for the commission’s case in the Luxembourg court, said the decision “confirms that Europe’s consumers must enjoy meaningful choice between search engines and browsers on their phones and tablets.”

The record-high fine is one of three antitrust penalties totaling more than $8 billion that the European Commission slapped on Google between 2017 and 2019, putting the 27-nation bloc at the forefront of the global push to rein in tech giants.

Google was fined $2.42 billion in 2017 for directing search engine users to comparison-shopping ads placed by the company over other competition services. The company lost an appeal last year before filing another appeal with the EU top court, which is pending.

In 2019, the company was fined $1.49 billion for limiting how users see rival ads on some websites. That appeal is still under way. 

The commission has widened its crackdown on digital giants, launching antitrust investigations targeting Amazon, Apple and Facebook and sweeping new rules aimed at clamping down on the biggest digital companies

Tech companies are now facing tighter scrutiny around the world: Google also got hit with a $50 million fine Wednesday by South Korean privacy watchdogs that also fined Facebook parent Meta $22 million.

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