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Google Mostly Loses Appeal Over EU's $4B Android Antitrust Fine

Court slightly trims original penalty in case that charged the tech giant with using its Android dominance to stifle competition.

Android logo on a smartphone against a background of drawing chalks
James Martin/CNET

A top European court has largely upheld a record fine imposed on Google by the European Commission over antitrust violations related to its Android mobile operating system. The EU charged that Google was stifling competition by using its Android dominance to forcibly require phone makers to include apps for Google services.

The Alphabet-owned Google challenged the 2018 fine, but on Wednesday the European Court of Justice's General Court mostly confirmed the decision to penalize the company more than 4 billion euros ($3.99 billion).

"In order better to reflect the gravity and duration of the infringement," it's appropriate to impose a fine of 4.125 billion euros on Google, the court said (PDF). That's slightly lower than the original 4.34 billion euro penalty, as the court said its reasoning differed "in certain respects" from the commission's.

"We are disappointed that the court did not annul the decision in full," Google said in a statement. "Android has created more choice for everyone, not less, and supports thousands of successful businesses in Europe and around the world."

The fine -- still a record -- is one of three the EU antitrust watchdog imposed on Google between 2017 and 2019, totaling about $8.5 billion.

The EU found that Google's agreements with phone makers stifled competition and reduced choices for consumers because companies such as Huawei, Samsung and LG are completely dependent on Android. The agreements required that certain Google apps and search tools, as well as the Google Play Store, must be preinstalled on Android devices, which allows Google to preserve and strengthen its dominance in search.

Google has previously argued that by providing Android software free of charge to device makers, it's enabled the proliferation of cheap phones and, in doing so, has increased access to online services. The company also pointed out that if users want to download rival services, they're free to do so.

EU consumer group BEUC called the ruling "crucial" in a statement, adding that "it confirms that Europe's consumers must enjoy meaningful choice between search engines and browsers on their phones and tablets."