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Google loses challenge against EU antitrust decision

A top European court fined Google EUR 4.125 billion for using the Android mobile operating system to thwart rivals. It is believed to be a major setback for the US company and offers a precedent for other regulators to ratchet up the pressure.

The unit of US tech giant Alphabet had challenged an earlier ruling, but the decision was broadly upheld by Europe’s second-highest court ruling and the fine was reduced only modestly from EUR 4.34 billion.

This is the second court defeat for Google which lost its challenge to a EUR 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 manufacturers of Android mobile devices and mobile network operators in order to consolidate the dominant position of its search engine,” the court said.

Google, which can appeal on matters of law to the EU Court of Justice, Europe’s highest, voiced its disappointment.

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

Today’s ruling is a record fine for an antitrust violation. The EU antitrust enforcer has imposed a total of EUR 8.25 billion in antitrust fines on the world’s most popular internet search engine in three investigations stretching back more than a decade.

Antitrust boost

The ruling is a boost for EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager following setbacks in cases involving other tech giants such as Intel and Qualcomm this year. She is currently investigating Google’s digital advertising business, its Jedi Blue ad deal with Meta, Apple’s App Store rules, Meta’s marketplace and data use and Amazon’s online selling and market practices.

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

FairSearch, whose 2013 complaint triggered the EU case, said the judgment will further strengthen Vestager’s landmark tech rules aimed at curbing US tech giants which will go into force next year.

“This victory will embolden the Commission in enforcing its new regulation reigning in Big Tech, the Digital Markets Act,” its lawyer Thomas Vinje said.

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