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'Consumers aren't stupid': Google lawyer rejects EU market abuse ruling

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FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Android mascot Bugdroid is seen in front of a Google logo in this illustration
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By Foo Yun Chee

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Billions of people use Google because it's the best, not because of deals the company made to stay competitive, Google's lawyer said on Friday, wrapping up a week of testimony as the U.S. tech giant fights a record $5 billion antitrust fine.

The European Commission hit Alphabet's Google with a 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) fine in 2018 for using its Android mobile operating system to thwart rivals and cement its dominance in general internet searching from 2011.

At issue are deals requiring phone makers to pre-install the Google Search app and the Chrome browser app together with Google Play, as well deals blocking some variants of Android.

"The reason why billions of people choose Google as their search tool every day is not because of an abuse of dominance. It's because it's the best," lawyer Meredith Pickford told the EU's General Court, the bloc's second highest.

Pickford said the deals were far from being anti-competitive tools, rather they were to ensure Google stayed competitive.

"You can still compete hard and compete on the merits. Consumers aren't stupid. If Bing or another search engine were better than Google, people would turn to it," he said, referring to a rival Microsoft Corp search engine.

"Successful companies don't stay successful by resting on their laurels and failing to compete," Pickford told the court.

The European Commission's lawyer, Nicholas Khan, said the deals showed that Google had stacked the odds in its favour and urged judges to uphold the Commission's decision and fine.

"Google gives itself the laurel wreath even before the race has started," Khan said. "The scale of the practices entirely justify the fine that was imposed."

It was not clear when there will be a verdict in the case, which is T-604/18 Google vs European Commission.

($1 = 0.8637 euros)

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Clarke)

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