Google loses challenge against EU antitrust decision, other probes loom

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LUXEMBOURG, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Google suffered one of its biggest setbacks on Wednesday when a top European court upheld a ruling that it breached competition rules and imposed a record fine of 4.1 billion euros, which could encourage other regulators to increase. pressure on the American giant.

The unit of the American technology giant Alphabet (GOOGL.O) had challenged an EU antitrust ruling, but the decision was largely upheld by the European Court, with the fine reduced slightly to 4.125 billion euros ($4.13 billion) from 4.34 billion euros .

Even with the reduction, it was still a record fine for an antitrust violation. The EU’s antitrust authority has fined the world’s most popular internet search engine a total of €8.25 billion in three investigations dating back more than a decade.

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The ruling is expected to bolster landmark rules aimed at limiting the power of US tech giants that will come into force next year. Read more

“The ruling strengthens the power of the Commission. It confirms that the Commission can use antitrust proceedings as a threat of support to quickly enforce digital regulations also known as DMA,” said Nicolas Petit, a professor at the European University Institute.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager didn’t mince words.

“That, of course, is really good. Now we have Google’s second judgment and for us that’s really important because it supports our enforcement efforts,” she said.

It is the second court defeat for Google which lost its challenge to a 2.42 billion euro ($2.42 billion) fine last year, the first of a trio of cases .

“The General Court largely confirms the Commission’s decision that Google imposed unlawful restrictions on Android mobile device manufacturers and mobile network operators in order to consolidate the dominant position of its search engine,” the court said. .

“In order to better reflect the gravity and duration of the infringement, the General Court considers that it is however appropriate to impose a fine of €4.125 billion on Google, its reasoning differing in certain respects from that of the Commission”, the judges said.

Google, which can appeal in matters of law to the Court of Justice of the EU, the highest in Europe, expressed its disappointment.

“We are disappointed that the Court did not reverse the decision in its entirety. Android has created more choice for everyone, not less, and supports thousands of successful businesses in Europe and around the world,” said a spokesperson.

ANTITRUST BOOST

Decision is a boost for Vestager after the Tribunal reversed its rulings against Intel (INTC.O) and Qualcomm (QCOM.O) earlier this year.

Vestager has made his crackdown on Big Tech a feature of his work, a move that has encouraged regulators in the United States and elsewhere to follow suit.

She is currently investigating Google’s digital advertising activity, its Jedi Blue advertising deal with Meta (META.O)Apples (AAPL.O) App Store Rules, Marketplace and Use of Meta and Amazon Data (AMZN.O) online sales and market practices.

The Court agreed with the Commission’s assessment that iPhone maker Apple (AAPL.O) was not in the same market and therefore could not constitute a competitive constraint vis-à-vis Android.

The court’s backing could bolster the EU’s antitrust watchdog in its investigations into Apple’s business practices in the music streaming market, which the regulator says Apple dominates.

FairSearch, whose 2013 complaint sparked the EU case, said the judgment could lead to more competition in the smartphone market.

“It shows that the European Commission is right. Google can no longer impose its will on phone manufacturers. Now they can open up their devices to competition in search and other services, allowing consumers to benefit from a choice increased,” said his lawyer Thomas Vinje.

The Commission, in its 2018 decision, said Google was using Android to cement its dominance in general internet search through payments to large manufacturers and mobile network operators and restrictions.

Google said it was acting like countless other companies and that these payments and agreements helped keep Android as a free operating system, criticizing the EU decision as out of step with the economic reality of the platforms. mobile software forms.

The case is T-604/18 Google v European Commission.

($1 = 1.0002 euros)

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Reporting from Foo Yun Chee Editing by David Evans and Bernadette Baum

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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