The European Commission's Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, imposed the biggest penalty in the history of antitrust enforcement against Google last week with a fine of 4.3 billion euros ($ 5 billion).
That did not have to be that way.  A year ago, when the company – already hit by another EUR 2.4 billion fine in another EU case – quietly attempted to sort out the investigation with offers from Android phone manufacturers, the reaction was the same cool.
The search giant in Silicon Valley had waited at least a year too long to address the topic of a settlement, said the 50-year-old Vestager in an interview. If a company wants to settle, it must receive "immediately after" the first EU complaint or statement of objections .
"That did not happen in this case, and then, of course, the road has gone. It has taken now," Vestager said of the negotiation talks that have not been reported so far. "So no surprises."
Google, one Unit of Alphabet Inc. was one of the EU's biggest antitrust violations, with three probes, countless headlines and a steady thud of minor rivals and customers demanding action. The company has twice failed to make arrangements that will resolve cases into its shopping services and Android, which have resulted in a total of € 6.7 billion in fines ̵
Google declined to comment on the settlement attempts. Google will appeal the EU ruling, said chief executive Sundar Pichai in a blog post. The company has "shown that we are ready to make changes," he said.
In the weeks following the February 2017 fine, Google lawyers began expressing their willingness to settle on their EU counterparts the probe in Android, one of the company's flagship products. Previous attempts to engage in talks with the EU on how to stop the probe had not caught fire. The officials stoned or said it was too early for negotiations, the people familiar with the negotiations said.
The Mountain View, California The company's incentive to settle the Android trial was easy to see.
Google provides Android software to mobile phone manufacturers for free, but forces them to pre-install Google Apps if they want to have the Play App Store with more than one million programs. The search giant also pays telephone manufacturers, telecommunications companies and other browser manufacturers the Google search engine that collects user data. Thanks to these agreements, according to market research firm EMarketer, Google has achieved annual sales of nearly $ 50 billion, or a third of the world market.
Google managers believed Vestager had left the door open for a deal when she refused to rule out an agreement at the press conference on June 27, 2017, where she announced the fines in the suitcase
"Every case is separated, "she told reporters. "And of course I did not draw any conclusions in the cases that were still open."
Encouraged, Google's Lawyers Encouraged a Letter In August, Google suggested that possible changes were made by the people familiar with the discussions to address the EU's concerns.
Google stated that it was willing to adjust contracts to ease restrictions that the EU would not like forward. The letter did not go into detail, just to give an overview of kickstart talks, according to the people who did not want to be identified because the initial discussions with the regulators were confidential.
The lawyers received no formal response, only hearing from officials that a settlement was no longer an option. This prevented them from even discussing whether the company would pay a fine as part of a deal.
EU officials found the offer unconvincing and considered it too little late, two others said.
Vestager stated in an interview that a settlement offer should have been made after the company had received the statement of objections of the EU in 2016, detailing the antitrust issues with Android. The EU said the company could violate competition rules by unfairly pushing search and browser apps to Android devices.
That might have been the narrow window to clarify the case, but Google's legal team spun dozens of plates in 2016 To respond to Android charges, purchasing sounding was still of great importance and there were new complaints from News Corp. , and other rivals in the EU.
After the refusal, the EU stepped up its investigation and sent a formal "fact sheet" in November 2017, adding new evidence, two people said. There was little substantive contact between the two sides until Google officials spoke at a so-called state-of-play meeting with EU officials in April about the case on the way to a record-breaking sentence.
Google did not have much luck trying to find a way to peace with the EU. For two years he tried to reach an agreement in the shopping probe. However, a preliminary deal has been heavily targeted by publishers and politicians, forcing the EU to stop short of appointing Vestager as commissioner in November 2014.
One of Vestager's first acts was to resume the Google Shopping investigation and put a stop to the end of the botched settlement trial. She has quickly built a fearsome reputation as a scourge of the US tech giants. It ordered Apple Inc. to pay back 13 billion euros taxes and fined Facebook Inc. 110 million euros for allegations that it had misled regulators during merger control.
"Compared to shopping, Android is a case of Vestager that has not been inherited," said Nicolas Petit, visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution and law professor at the University of Liège in Belgium. "Their incentives to make this case a symbol of their tenure were probably higher, so the chances of reaching an agreement were lower for me."
The EU is not always averse to enforcing an agreement after a long investigation. The state-controlled gas export giant of the country Gazprom PJSC has left a potentially large EU penalty after a seven-year exploration of which in May approved a change in the sale of gas to Europe.
Google had a better time in Moscow. The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service fined the company a fine of $ 7.8 million under an April 2017 agreement to end an investigation into similar Android problems.
– With the support of Stephanie Bodoni