As Google attempted to annul a record fine of 4.34 billion euro ($5.1 billion) related to the monopolistic practices of the Android ecosystem, the company censured EU antitrust regulators for disregarding Apple’s key position in the market.
“The Commission shut its eyes to the real competitive dynamic in this industry, that between Apple and Android,” Google’s lawyer Meredith Pickford told a panel of five judges at the European General Court (EGC) at the start of a five-day hearing.
Google representatives maintained that Android was a “vigorous market disruptor” and a massive success story of competition at work.
Google dominates the global mobile operating system market with more than 70 percent of the total share. In 2018, the European Commission had fined the tech giant for thwarting competition and preventing rivals from being able to compete against its wide-ranging ecosystem.
Commission lawyer Nicholas Khan dismissed Google’s claim, saying that Apple carried a relatively smaller share of the global market.
“Bringing Apple into the picture doesn’t change things very much. Google and Apple pursue different models,” he told the court.
The commission took up the case based upon a complaint registered by lobbying group FairSearch. Characterized as a Google watchdog, FairSearch is controlled by Oracle, and features members like Microsoft and Nokia.
FairSearch’s complaint alleges that Google offered Android as a “Trojan horse” to hardware manufacturers marketing the platform as community-driven, easily adaptable, and open source. Using a “bait and switch” strategy, the company would essentially offer two versions of Android.
One was truly open source but starved of functionality, and the other is Google’s proprietary version. The company did this by implementing an application programming interface (API) layer, Google Play Services. This principal repository of Android apps was maintained and updated, and not part of the open source version.
Hardware manufacturers were “encouraged (and in some cases, required) to use the Play Services APIs” restricting them from releasing other editions on the open source platform, according to a summary of the FairSearch complaint.
Khan said that Google’s purposeful barriers for rivals resulted in “a virtuous circle for Google but a vicious circle for anybody else.” Over the last decade, Google has been fined more than eight billion euros ($9.34 billion) in EU antitrust fines.
A verdict is expected in 2022.