Antitrust Law Big Tech Original

In a Major Reversal of Fortunes Google Gets Slapped Down Hard By Europe’s Top Regulatory Court

Original to ScheerPost

Google lost its appeal against the $4.125 billion antitrust fine filed by the European Union’s General Court after the court’s regulators uncovered huge infringements in how Google operated its Android OS by impeding competitors four years ago. For its next step, Google can now appeal on matters of law to Europe’s highest court, the Court of Justice. 

According to Trisha Ostwal’s article in AdWeek:

“The court confirmed its decision in a ruling issued this week. The ruling has global repercussions, potentially spurring enforcement from other regulators on similar cases.

Although Google challenged the EU antitrust ruling, the decision was largely held by the EU’s General Court, with the fine marginally trimmed from $4.34 billion (€4.34 billion). The amount is a record fine for an antitrust violation. To date, a total of €8.25 billion has been levied by EU regulators on the search engine giant in a trio of investigations.”

Also bad news for Big Tech, The Digital Markets Act, a regulation meant to force tech giants to compete with competitors on a more level playing field, has been approved to be rolled out next year by European Union antitrust regulators.

These aren’t the first times that the EU’s regulators have punished Google for their monopolistic practices. Trisha Ostwal describes a 2018 case centered around Google’s use of its Android OS:

“In 2018, the EU’s competition watchdog found Google abusing its market monopoly by engaging in anticompetitive contractual obligations with manufacturers of mobile devices using its Android OS and on mobile network operators. Some cases track back to the beginning of 2011.

The commission found three types of restrictions in contract clauses by Google, one of which required mobile operators to pre-install Google Search and Chrome browser apps as a condition for licensing Google’s Play Store. To that, Google made payments to certain large device manufacturers and mobile network operators on the condition that they exclusively pre-install the Google Search app on their devices. Lastly, the company prevented manufacturers who wished to pre-install Google apps from selling any device that ran alternative versions of Android OS that weren’t approved by Google.

Google was ordered to cease the infringements by EU regulators while allowing the company to find a solution. As a remedy, the company offered a selection of search engines for Android users to choose, but moved to a paid auction model for assigning which search engines are in the selection, again penalizing smaller search competitors. Eventually pressurized by the EU, Google switched from the paid auction to a free version for eligible providers last year, placating the court ruling.”

In the same 24-hour period that Google lost its appeal to the EU General Court, a Texas-led antitrust lawsuit brought forward by attorney generals from 17 different states against Google for its monopolistic approach to its ad-tech and advertising advanced in U.S. court. An allegation that Google leveraged its DoubleClick AdExchange business to promote or drive traffic to its DoubleClick For Publishers business has also been advanced in U.S. court. Ostwal writes that “As a result, publishers were obliged to use Google’s ad server to access business coming through AdX, ultimately impacting their ad revenue.”

Google was also accused of underpaying a publisher after a transaction went through on ADX after the tech corporation allegedly secretly kept a portion of the winning bidder’s payment in another allegation.

According to the CEO of nonprofit trade association, Jason Kint, “the case continuing to move forward could result in structural separation of Google’s ad tech business for sure.”

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