The European Union’s second-highest court unanimously upheld the EU’s record fine against Google for its Android mobile operating system on Wednesday, slightly lowering the fee for technical reasons.
Google was found to have misused its dominating position in order to favor its own retail services over rivals in search results, according to the European Commission.
In a statement, the EU’s General court said it “largely confirms the commission’s decision that Google imposed unlawful restrictions on manufacturers of Android mobile devices” in order to benefit its search engine.
However, the court ruled that instead of the 4.3 billion euros the commission had settled upon in 2018 after considering the length of the violation, the sentence should be somewhat reduced to 4.125 billion euros ($4.1 billion).
Despite Google’s assertions that the commission’s case was unjustified and incorrectly based on accusations that it forced its search engine and Chrome browser on Android phones, the tax continues to be the largest ever imposed by the EU.
The company also argued that the EU was unfairly blind to Apple’s power, which imposes or clearly prefers its own services, such as Safari on iPhones.
Google argued that customers weren’t forced to use its products on Android and that downloading competing apps was merely a click away.
The EU and complainants responded that Google used contracts with phone makers in the early days of Android to stifle rivals.
The decision by the General Court is not necessarily the end of the story. Both sides can turn to the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, for a final say on the fine, which was the equivalent of $5 billion when levied.
The Android case was the third of three major cases brought against Google by the EU’s competition czar Margrethe Vestager, whose legal challenges were the first worldwide to directly take on the Silicon Valley giants.
Since then, global regulators have followed suit, with Google facing a barrage of cases in the US and Asia based on similar accusations.