EU court confirms billion-dollar fine against Google over Android restrictions

[German]The Court of Justice of the European Union issued a decision on Wednesday, September 14, 2022, regarding the fine imposed by the EU Commission on Google or its parent Alphabet. In Case T-604/18, the court largely upheld the Commission's decision that Google imposed unlawful restrictions on Android mobile device manufacturers and mobile network operators in order to strengthen the dominant position of its search engine.


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Various complaints addressed to the Commission regarding certain business practices by Google in the mobile Internet sector prompted the EU Commission to open proceedings against Google relating to Android on April 15, 2015. The EU Commission had then ruled in its decision of July 18, 2018, that Google had exploited its dominant position in general search services and violated EU competition rules by:

  • required manufacturers to pre-install the Google search app and browser app (Chrome) as a condition for licensing Google's app store (Play Store); and
  • prevented manufacturers who wanted to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device that ran alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google.
  • Further, there were restrictions in the "revenue sharing agreements" whereby Google would only pass on a portion of advertising revenue to the mobile device manufacturers and mobile network operators concerned if they undertook not to pre-install a competing general search service on a pre-determined range of devices.

Google had been fined nearly €4.343 billion by the EU Commission at the time for suppressing competition through the above clauses and Android's dominance. This is the highest fine ever imposed in Europe by a competition authority. Google had sued against this fine before the EU court.

On Wednesday, September 13, 2022, the Court of Justice of the European Union largely upheld the EU Commission in its decision in case T-604/18 and confirmed the penalty. Say, the court considers it proven that Google imposed unlawful restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators to strengthen its own dominant position. A press release states:

In order better to reflect the gravity and duration of the infringement, the General Court considers it appropriate however to impose a fine of €4.125 billion on Google, its reasoning differing in certain respects from that of the Commission

The action brought by Google is essentially dismissed by the General Court. It annuls the Commission's decision only insofar as it finds that the above-mentioned assortment-related revenue-sharing agreements constitute an abuse per se. The total fines in three antitrust cases brought against Google by the European Commission between 2017 and 2019 reaches more than $8 billion by now.

The details of the T-604/18 judgment can be read here. The company had already changed its terms after the EU Commission's ruling to comply with EU competition law. Google or its parent Alphabet can now still appeal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Further actions by Google against decisions of the EU Commission are pending before the ECJ and the EU Court of Justice. It will be exciting to see what happens next. 


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