Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Google hit with record €4B fine

Google hit with record €4B fine

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Android-themed shrubbery watches over developers at Google’s annual gathering of developers in San Francisco, California, on May 28, 2015. Glenn CHAPMAN/afp

Google hit with record €4B fine

The European Union slapped Google with a huge €4.34 billion fine for abusing the dominance of its Android operating system on Wednesday in the biggest antitrust penalty in the bloc’s history.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the US tech giant illegally used Android’s near-monopoly to boost usage of its own search engine and browser.

The decision, which follows a three-year investigation, comes as fears of a transatlantic trade war mount due to President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminium exports.

“Today the commission has decided to fine Google €4.34 billion ($5 billion) for breaching EU antitrust rules,” Vestager told a press conference in Brussels.

“Google has engaged in illegal practices to cement its dominant market position in internet search.”

Vestager, who has taken on a string of Silicon Valley titans as EU antitrust chief, said Google “must put an effective end to this conduct within 90 days or face penalty payments” of up to five percent of its average daily turnover.

The new sanction nearly doubles the previous record EU anti-trust fine of €2.4 billion, which also targeted Google, in that case for the Silicon Valley titan’s shopping comparison service in 2017.

Google immediately said it would appeal the fine “Android has created more choice for everyone, not less,” Google spokesman Al Verney said in a statement. “A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition. We will appeal the Commission’s decision.”

Danish former minister Vestager spoke by telephone with Google chief Sundar Pichai on Tuesday night to tell him about the decision in advance.

Vestager said Google had shut out rivals by forcing major phone makers including South Korea’s Samsung and China’s Huawei to pre-install its search engine and Google Chrome browser, thereby freezing out rivals.

They were also made to set Google Search as the default, as a condition of licensing some Google apps. Google Search and Chrome are as a result pre-installed on the “significant majority” of devices sold in the EU, the European Commission says.

Google also prevented manufacturers from selling smartphones that run on rival operating systems based on the Android open source code, it said.

Google finally gave “financial incentives” to manufacturers and mobile network operators if they pre-installed Google Search on their devices, the commission said.

Google provides Android free to smartphone manufacturers and generates most of its revenue from selling advertisements that appear along with search results.

Under EU rules Google could have been fined up to 10 percent of parent company Alphabet’s annual revenue, which hit $110.9 billion in 2017.

Vestager’s campaign against Silicon Valley giants in her four years as the 28-nation European Union’s competition commissioner has won praise in Europe but angered Washington.

Brussels has repeatedly targeted Google over the past decade amid concerns about the Silicon Valley giant’s dominance of internet search across Europe, where it commands about 90 percent of the market.

As well as the Android and Google Shopping files, it also has a third investigation under way, into Google’s AdSense advert-placing business.

Silicon scalps

Vestager’s other major scalps include Amazon and Apple.

The EU ordered Apple in 2016 to pay Ireland €13 billion in back taxes that the maker of iPhones and iPads had avoided by a tax deal with Dublin.

It has also taken on Facebook over privacy issues after it admitted that millions of users may have had their data hijacked by British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, which was working for Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

But Brussels has had US tech giants in its sights for a decade in a half, since it imposed a huge €497 million fine on Microsoft in 2004 for anti-competitive behaviour and ruled it must make changes to its Windows system.

The Google decision comes just one week before European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is due to travel to the United States for crucial talks with Trump on the tariffs dispute and other issues.

Transatlantic tensions are also high over Trump’s berating NATO allies on defence spending at a summit last week, over his summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and over the US president’s pull-out from the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris climate deal.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia to waive quarantine requirements Nov 15, no PCR test required

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided to lift all quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers and visitors – both Cambodians and foreign nationals – effective from November 15 onward. In a special message addressed to officials and relevant authorities on November 14, Hun Sen said this policy will enable

  • PM: No more quarantine for vaccinated travellers

    Cambodia is lifting all quarantine requirements for vaccinated inbound travellers entering Cambodia by air, waterway or land border checkpoints effective from November 15. Travellers will be required to take a rapid antigen test on arrival rather than waiting for the results of the lengthier polymerase chain

  • No payment required for travellers taking rapid Covid tests on arrival

    Ministry of Health officials said there would be no payment required for the rapid Covid-19 tests given to travellers who arrive in Cambodia from November 15 onwards after the quarantine requirement is lifted for fully vaccinated people. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration