Google lawyer says Android helps rather than harms competition
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A man holds his smartphone which displays the Google home page, in this picture illustration taken in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, August 22, 2016. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
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By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google's Android mobile operating system boosts competition rather than hurts it, the company's general counsel said on Thursday, in a rebuttal of EU antitrust charges that it uses the platform to crush rivals.
The comments by Google general counsel Kent Walker on a blog came a week after the U.S. technology group rejected two other EU accusations of unfairly promoting its shopping service and blocking competitors in online search advertising.
The Android case could potentially be the most damaging for Google. Android has made about $31 billion in revenue and $22 billion in profit for Google since its release in 2008, an Oracle Corp lawyer told a U.S. court in January.
Android's market share in Europe is above 90 percent, according to the European Commission.
Walker said the Commission has got the whole case wrong, ignoring both the fierce rivalry with iPhone maker Apple, the demands from apps developers and the dangers of modified versions of Android.
"The response we filed today shows how the Android ecosystem carefully balances the interests of users, developers, hardware makers, and mobile network operators. Android hasn’t hurt competition, it's expanded it," he said.
The case is distorted because the EU competition enforcer does not see Apple's iOS as a rival to Android, he said.
"To ignore competition with Apple is to miss the defining feature of today's competitive smartphone landscape," Walker said.
The company said it bundles some of its apps and products in order to offer the package for free instead of charging upfront licensing fees. Such a practice put Microsoft in the EU crosshairs, eventually resulting in millions of euros of fines for the U.S. software company.
Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso confirmed receipt of Google's response.
Lobbying group and complainant FairSearch, whose members include U.S. travel sites Expedia and TripAdvisor, dismissed Google's arguments.
"The truth is that Android is today a closed operating system, and any claim to the contrary is disingenuous. Google imposes severe sanctions on those who defy its insistence on conformity," FairSearch lawyer Thomas Vinje said in a statement.
The EU antitrust enforcer intends to hit the company with deterrent fines in the Android and shopping cases, according to charge sheets seen by Reuters.
The penalty could reach $7.4 billion, or 10 percent of Google's global turnover, for each case if it is found guilty of breaching EU rules.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter)
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