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Alphabet Inc. unit Google on Monday criticized EU antitrust regulators for ignoring rival Apple Inc. as it launched a bid to get Europe’s second-highest court to annul a record €4.34-billion ($6.4-billion) fine related to its Android operating system.

Far from holding back rivals and harming users, Android has been a massive success story of competition at work, representatives of Google told a panel of five judges at the General Court in Luxembourg at the start of a five-day hearing.

The European Commission fined Google in 2018, saying it had used Android since 2011 to thwart rivals and cement its dominance in general internet search.

“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.

Mr. Pickford said Android “is an exceptional success story of the power of competition in action.”

Commission lawyer Nicholas Khan dismissed Apple’s role because of its small market share compared with Android.

“Bringing Apple into the picture doesn’t change things very much. Google and Apple pursue different models,” he told the court.

“Google’s conduct denied any opportunity for competition,” he said, citing agreements that forced phone manufacturers to preinstall Google Search, the Chrome browser and the Google Play app store on their Android devices, and payments to preinstall only Google Search.

Android, free for device makers to use, is found on about 80 per cent of the world’s smartphones. The case is the most important of the European Union’s three cases against Google because of Android’s market power. Google has racked up more than €8-billion in EU antitrust fines in the past decade.

German phone maker Gigaset Communications GmbH, which is backing Google, said its success was due to Android’s open platform and lamented the negative impact of the commission’s decision on its business.

“The licence fee for the Play Store that Google now charges as a result of the contested decision represents a significant portion of the price of Gigaset’s smartphones aimed at price-sensitive consumers,” its lawyer Jean-François Bellis told the court.

Lobbying group FairSearch, whose complaint triggered the commission case, was however scathing about Google’s tactics with phone makers.

“Google adopted a classic bait and switch strategy. It hooked [them] on a supposedly free and open source operating system subsidized by its search monopoly, only to shut that system to competition through the web of restrictions at issue in this case,” its lawyer Thomas Vinje told the court.

A verdict may come next year.

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