Google has been with a $5.1 billion fine by European antitrust officials on Wednesday for abusing its power in the smartphone market, in the region’s latest move to rein in the clout of American tech companies.
The penalty of 4.34 billion euros was a record, and far larger than the €2.4 billion, or about $2.8 billion, that the European Union levied on Google last year for unfairly favoring its own services in internet search results. The decision on Wednesday highlighted how European authorities are aggressively pushing for stronger regulation of the digital economy on issues including antitrust, privacy, taxes, and the spread of misinformation and hate speech.
European officials said Google, which makes the Android mobile operating system used in smartphones, broke antitrust laws by striking deals with handset manufacturers such as HTC, Huawei and Samsung. The agreements required Google’s services, such as its search bar and Chrome browser, to be favored over rival offerings. European authorities said those moves unfairly boxed out competitors.
“Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine,” said Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s antitrust chief. “These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere. This is illegal under E.U. antitrust rules.”