Google’s Alphabet unit suffered its second setback in less than a year on Wednesday (14 September) when Europe’s top court agreed with EU antitrust regulators that it had abused its dominance, but reduced the fine by 5% over disagreement on one point.

Last year, Google lost a challenge with a fine of 2.42 billion euros ($2.42 billion), the first of three cases.

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

“In order to better reflect the seriousness and duration of the infringement, the General Court considers it appropriate to impose a fine of €4.125 billion on Google, its reasoning differs in some aspects from that of the Commission,” the judges said.

The ruling is a boost for EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager after setbacks in cases involving other tech giants such as Intel and Qualcomm this year.

The European Commission’s competition chief has imposed tough fines on Big Tech to ensure a level playing field across the 27 countries of the European Union.

In its 2018 decision, the Commission said that Google used Android to strengthen its dominance in general internet search through payments to major manufacturers and mobile operators and restrictions.

Google said it acts like countless other businesses and that such payments and agreements help keep Android a free operating system, criticizing the EU’s decision as incompatible with the economic reality of mobile software platforms.

Parties can appeal on questions of law to the European Court of Justice, the highest court in Europe.
Case T-604/18 Google v European Commission. ($1 = €1.0002)

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