Google is going to the European Court of Justice: It’s about preventing competition in connection with Android – and a fine worth a billion.
In the dispute with the EU over illegal market power in Android, Google will go to the highest European court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In September, the court of the European Union set the fine against Google at 4.125 billion euros – and thus reduced it, but upheld the basic accusation in its decision: Google is said to have imposed illegal restrictions on the manufacturers of smartphones and operators of mobile phone networks in order to strengthen its own dominant position in the market to strengthen the position. The original fine was supposed to be 4.34 billion euros.
The specific allegation is: Google is said to have exploited its dominant position in Android smartphones to gain advantages for itself. Specifically, this time it was about the compulsion to have to accommodate Google services as apps if hardware manufacturers wanted to use the operating system. Google sells Android as open source. The search was also preset on smartphones, which in the meantime led Google to dubious bidding processes. Providers could pay dearly to get a selection place when setting up a smartphone. Under pressure from the EU Commission, Google discontinued this pay-to-play procedure.
Of course, Google sees itself as misunderstood. The court neglects that Google’s main competitor is Apple’s iPhone. With Android, the market was only opened up to other developers and manufacturers. In addition, the costs for the maintenance of the operating system must also be taken into account, it was said in the previous argument. So far, there has been no statement from Google on the current decision.
Android: On 80 percent of smartphones
In September, the General Court of the European Union argued as follows when determining the penalty: “The level of penalty confirmed by the court reflects the need to have a deterrent effect,” said the court’s detailed decision statement. The duration of the dispute, which has been ongoing since 2013, and the effects of Google’s behavior also played a role. According to the EU Commission, which first set the amount of the fine in 2018, around 80 percent of smartphone users had a smartphone running Android at the time.
All plaintiffs and joint plaintiffs, including the Federal Association of Digital Publishers and Newspaper Publishers and the search engine provider Qwant, have to bear their own costs in the proceedings. The reduction in the sentence in September came about because the court ruled differently from the Commission on one point: it saw no abuse in the sharing of revenue. And what was already clear back then seems to be true now: the decision is still not the end of the matter.