Google Appeals $5 Billion EU Fine in Android Case


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Google on Tuesday said it filed an appeal of the European Union’s €4.34 billion ($4.97 billion) antitrust fine for allegedly abusing the dominance of its Android operating system for mobile phones.

But Google said it has no plans to ask for so-called interim measures to pause application of the decision. Without further action, Google will have to meet a deadline at the end of October to end the behavior the EU says is anticompetitive or face additional fines of up to 5% of average daily global revenue for each day it doesn’t comply.

Google had promised that it would appeal the decision when the European Commission, the bloc’s antitrust regulator, delivered it in mid-July. The commission said that Google broke the block’s competition laws in part by strong-arming phone makers that use its free Android operating system to pre-install its namesake search engine, from which the company makes the bulk of its advertising revenue.

A spokesman for Google declined to make the appeal public or comment on what grounds the company cited in its defense. Instead the company referred to a blog post it published in July, following the EU’s decision, arguing that Android has boosted competition among mobile phone makers.

Representatives for the European Commission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google’s appeal is the latest volley in a series of actions that European regulators and legislators are directing at big tech companies—many led by EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has emerged as one of the most avid global regulators for big tech firms. Google is already appealing her 2017 decision that fined Google €2.43 billion for allegedly abusing the power of its search engine to favor its own service to show product ads on behalf of online retailers.

The European Commission is also investigating

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treatment of third-party merchants that sell goods via Amazon’s online store, while the bloc’s legislators are considering new copyright and tax rules aimed at reining in big tech firms.

In the Android case, the European Commission has ordered Google to stop making phone manufacturers pre-install its search app and the Chrome web browser if they want to pre-install Google’s Play store, which is the main way to download Android apps. The bloc also ordered Google to end restrictions that discourage manufacturers from selling devices that run unofficial versions of Android. It contends both restrictions illegally constrained competing search engines and operating systems.

Google has argued that Android, which is free for manufacturers to use, has increased competition among smartphone makers, lowering prices for consumers. The company has said the allegation that it stymied competing apps is false because manufacturers typically install many rival apps on Android devices, and consumers can easily download others.

Beyond the fine, it is an open question what effect the EU’s decision will have on Google’s business or the mobile phone ecosystem. On one hand, Android has helped Google build its mobile-phone business and anything that undermines its power there could create opportunities for competitors and slash its revenue.

By the same token, Google search and Chrome are very popular in their own right. Analysts have said consumers are likely to seek them out from an app store even if they weren’t pre-installed on their phones—meaning the EU ruling could pose less of a threat to Google’s mobile-business model.

Write to Sam Schechner at [email protected]

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