The group also faces a spate of cases in the United States and Asia on similar charges. (Photo: 123RF)
Google defended itself against any anti-competitive practices on Monday during a first hearing at the European Union court in Luxembourg, before which it was challenging a € 4.3 billion fine imposed by Brussels for its Android operating system.
The EU accuses the US internet giant of having abused the dominant position of its mobile phone operating system in order to establish the supremacy of its search engine and its Chrome browser. The Mountain View group (California) considers the accusation unfounded and requests the cancellation of the fine decided in 2018.
The case is an important test for EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who last year suffered a resounding defeat in European justice against Apple, whose tax benefits she denounced in Ireland.
“Android is indeed an outstanding success story of the power of competition in action,” Google attorney Meredith Pickford told the judges.
The group believes that the EU has mistakenly ignored its competitor Apple, which favors its own services, such as the Safari browser, on its iPhones. We will explain that the commission has turned a blind eye to the real competitive dynamics of this sector, which is opposed by Apple and Android ”, explained the lawyer.
He claimed that downloading competing apps was just a click away and that customers were not required to use Google products on Android.
Brussels accuses the US giant of having used clauses in its contracts with phone and tablet manufacturers to eliminate competitors, at the time of the beginnings of Android, now used in 80% of the world’s mobile devices. The group would have forced these manufacturers to pre-install the Google search engine and, in particular, the Chrome browser.
This was done “at a critical time in the development of mobile computing, when the market was still questionable,” said Thomas Vinje, a lawyer for FairSearch, a consortium of competing companies including Microsoft and Oracle, including one complaint. He started the business in 2015.
The Brussels proceeding on Android was the third one brought against Google by Ms Vestager. But the group also faces a spate of cases in the United States and Asia on similar charges.
The EU is also in the process of drafting new legislation to end abuses by digital giants, after noting that court procedures are ultimately too slow in the face of market developments.
Brussels presented in December 2020 a draft regulation that provides obligations and prohibitions accompanied by dissuasive sanctions. The text is currently being examined by the European Parliament and the Member States.