Earlier today, Google’s Android antitrust appeal case was heard in the European General Court. Google criticized the EU in court, saying that the European Commission ignores the existence of Android’s rival Apple. The five-day hearing is to assess whether Google has a monopoly in the smartphone operating system market. At today’s hearing, Google’s lawyer, Matthew Pickford said “The European Commission has turned a blind eye to the real competitive situation in the industry, that is, the competition between Apple and Android.”
He said: “The European Commission’s definition of the market is too narrow, downplaying the strong constraints imposed by the powerful Apple’, and mistakenly believes that Google has a dominant position in the mobile operating system and application stores. In fact, Google is a powerful player but not the only one…Android is an extraordinary success story in fierce market competition.”
European Commission dismisses Google’s claim
However, the European Commission lawyer, Nicholas Khan dismissed Apple’s role, because compared with Android, Apple’s market share is very small. Nicholas Khan said in court: “Incorporating Apple into consideration does not change too much. Google and Apple pursue different models.”
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He said: “Google’s actions deprived any opportunity for competition.” During the period, Nicholas Khan mentioned some agreements signed between Google and device manufacturers, forcing mobile phone manufacturers to pre-install Google search, Chrome browser, and Google on their Android devices. In addition, Google also pays certain large-scale Android device manufacturers and mobile operators, requiring them to exclusively pre-install the Google Search App.
Pickford also said that Google needs the ability to bundle its applications with the mobile phone software. This can give Google an “appropriate incentive” to invest billions of euros in the Android ecosystem. The Android ecosystem has created a “reliable, non-fragmented platform that provides Apple with a truly competitive alternative.”
Nicholas Khan retorted that the restrictive contract allowed Google to establish a near-monopoly in the search field. This has pushed Google’s global revenue to more than triple from $50 billion in 2012. Currently, about 80% of smartphones in the world use the Android system that device manufacturers get for free. This case is the most important of the three EU antitrust cases against Google. In the past ten years, the EU has issued more than $8 billion in antitrust fines against Google.
In July 2018, the European Commission announced an antitrust fine of 4.34 billion euros ($5.15 billion) on Google. Specifically, Android device manufacturers must pre-install the Google Search App and Chrome browser as a condition for authorizing the Google Play Store. The European Commission does not appreciate this behaviour.