Google was fined €4.34 billion ($5.1 billion) by European Union antitrust regulators in 2018 for suppressing competition and gaining an unfair advantage with its search engine. During its ongoing attempt to overturn the fine, the company has criticized EU regulators for failing to punish Apple.
Meredith Pickford, the lawyer representing Google, offered the company’s defense to the General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg. A panel of five judges heard the arguments at the General Court on the first day of a five-day hearing.
“The Commission shut its eyes to the real competitive dynamic in this industry, that between Apple and Android,” Pickford told the court.
“By defining markets too narrowly and downplaying the potent constraint imposed by the highly powerful Apple, the Commission has mistakenly found Google to be dominant in mobile operating systems and app stores, when it was in fact a vigorous market disrupter.”
In response, the Commission’s lawyer, Nicholas Khan, rejected Google’s claims, adding that Apple and Google “pursue different models.”
The court will likely issue a verdict by 2022
Khan also discussed Google’s agreements which compelled OEMs to include a handful of its apps on every Android device. Moreover, Khan also cited Google’s payments to manufacturers for installing Google Search on their devices.
The EU lawyer further said that Google’s anti-competitive practices led to “a virtuous circle for Google but a vicious circle for anybody else.”
Android devices make up 80% of the world’s smartphones. This 2018 ruling against the tech giant is crucial given that it talks about Android’s market power. The EU has two other cases against Google, but this has understandably taken the front seat for now. As Reuters points out, Google has faced more than €8 billion in EU antitrust fines over the last decade alone.
German phone manufacturer Gigaset Communications sent its lawyer to argue in favor of Google. “The licence fee for the Play Store that Google now charges as a result of the contested decision represents a significant portion of the price of Gigaset’s smartphones aimed at price-sensitive consumers,” the company’s lawyer Jean-François Bellis said.
The EU antitrust regulators opened a case against Google based on a complaint by lobbying group FairSearch. Its lawyer Thomas Vinje told the court that Google engaged in a “classic bait and switch” strategy.
European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager has proposed new rules to curb the market dominance of larger corporations. This could make life potentially tricky for companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.