Google defended itself Monday from any anti-competitive practice during a first hearing at the European Union (EU) court in Luxembourg, before which it is contesting a fine of 4.3 billion euros (6.4 billion dollars Canadians) imposed by Brussels for its Android operating system.
The EU accuses the American Internet giant of having abused the dominant position of its operating system for mobile phones in order to establish the supremacy of its search engine and its Chrome browser. Mountain View group finds accusation unfounded and calls for annulment of the fine decided in 2018.
The case is a major 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 wrongly ignored competitor Apple, which favors its own services, such as the Safari browser, on its iPhone. “We will explain that […] the Commission has turned a blind eye to the real competitive dynamics of this sector, that between Apple and Android, ”explained the lawyer. He claimed that downloading competing apps was just a click away and that customers were under no obligation to use Google’s products on Android.
Brussels accuses the American giant of having used clauses in its contracts with manufacturers of phones and tablets to eliminate competitors, at the time of the beginnings of Android, now used on 80% of mobile devices in the world. The group would have forced these manufacturers to preinstall in particular the Google search engine and 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, counsel for FairSearch, a consortium of competing companies including Microsoft and Oracle, including a complaint started the business in 2015.
The Brussels proceeding over Android was the third brought against Google by Mr.me Vestager. But the group is also facing an avalanche of cases in the United States and Asia for similar charges.
The EU is also in the process of drafting new legislation to put an end to the abuses of the digital giants, after noting that court proceedings are ultimately too slow compared to market developments.
Brussels presented in December 2020 a draft regulation which provides for obligations and prohibitions accompanied by dissuasive sanctions. The text is currently being examined by the European Parliament and the Member States.