Europe’s second-highest court sentenced Google to pay a €4.1 billion fine. According to the court, the tech giant forced manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and the Play Store on mobile devices.

The fine is one of the highest antitrust fines in European Union history. The suit was filed by the European Commission in 2018. Parent company Alphabet appealed, but the General Court — Europe’s second highest court — found Google guilty.

“Google imposed unlawful restrictions on manufacturers of Android mobile devices and mobile network operators in order to consolidate the dominant position of its search engine”, the court said. “The General Court considers it appropriate to impose a fine of €4.125 billion on Google.”

The European Commission enforces the European Union’s market rules. Large organizations are prohibited from abusing their power to thwart competitors. The European Commission sued Google for three cases of abuse of power in 2018. After investigating the charges, the General Court recently found Google guilty.

Three violations

The first violations took place in 2011. Google forced mobile manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google Chrome on devices. Manufacturers that refused to include the software were denied licenses for the Play Store. The latter is unthinkable: manufacturers that lack a Play Store license are forced to deprive their customers of Android’s primary app store.

Second, mobile manufacturers were forced to pre-install Android versions supported by Google. Manufacturers that used outdated or unofficial Android versions were refused licenses for Google Search and the Play Store.

Finally, mobile manufacturers and network operators were penalized for pre-installing alternative search engines. Manufacturers that pre-installed Google Search received a share of Google’s advertising revenue. Manufacturers that pre-installed an alternative search engine didn’t receive a dime.

Appeal

The Commission demanded a €4.3 billion euro fine. Although the General Court backed the Commission’s allegations, a €4.1 billion fine was deemed to be more appropriate.

Google does not have to pay the fine immediately. The tech giant has two months to appeal, after which the Court of Justice — Europe’s highest court — could reconsider the case.

Under fire in the United States

The US Department of Justice is working on similar charges. The ministry alleges that Google maintains its dominance by paying smartphone manufacturers billions of dollars a year. The lawsuit isn’t expected to conclude until next year. The European court’s ruling increases the likelihood of a conviction.