Alphabet unit Google blasted EU antitrust regulators on Monday over turning a blind eye to Apple as it launched a bid to get Europe’s second highest court to annul a record 4.34 billion euros ($5.1 billion) fine for anti-competitive apps on Android.
Google presented oral arguments to the EU’s second highest court in Luxembourg in its appeal to overturn the bloc’s antitrust enforcer’s 2018 decision. In this case, EU officials found that Google illegally abused Android’s market power to force companies that manufacture and distribute Android phones into deals aimed at consolidating and expanding the dominance of the Google search engine on mobile devices.
This decision was the largest of three antitrust penalties the EU has imposed on Google in the past half decade, totaling more than $9 billion. It also ordered changes to distribution deals that support search ads on mobile phones, one of the company’s biggest growth engines.
In the wake of the 2018 fine, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has since responded by defending the company’s position, noting that it creates more options, not less, by offering plenty of device types and different price points.
“The Commission shut its eyes to the real competitive dynamic in this industry, that between Apple and Android,” Google’s lawyer Meredith 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,” he said.
Pickford also said Android “is an exceptional success story of the power of competition in action”.
Commission attorney Nicholas Khan dismissed Apple’s role because of its small market share compared to Android. “Bringing Apple into the picture doesn’t change things very much. Google and Apple pursue different models,” Khan told the court. Android is found on about 80% of the world’s smartphones.
The Commission found Google had abused its control of the Android operating system by forcing phone makers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser and the Google Play app store.
Google says that the allegation that it blocked competing apps is false because manufacturers typically install many competing apps on Android devices and consumers can easily download others.
The company says it has the right to recoup the money it spends developing Android, which it offers to manufacturers for free, by encouraging them to install Google Search, from which the company generates the bulk of its revenue.