Aptoide wins court battle against Google in landmark case

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LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese app store Aptoide said on Monday that a local court had ruled against Alphabet Inc's Google GOOGL.O in a landmark case, ordering the U.S. giant to stop removing its app from users' mobile phones without their knowledge.

“This court’s decision is a signal for startups worldwide,” said Paulo Trezentos, Aptoide’s chief executive. “If you have reason on your side don’t fear to challenge Google.”

Aptoide’s lawyer Carlos Nestal said it was the first case of an EU national court enforcing separation of the Android operating system and services that run on it, to allow competitors like Aptoide to compete with Google apps.

“We believe this may apply to other situations where Google has competition,” Nestal said. Aptoide said in a statement that the court decision is applicable in 82 countries, including the UK and India.

Google did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The European Commission hit Google with a record 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) fine in July for using its popular Android mobile operating system to block rivals.

To comply with an EU order to stop such anti-competitive practices, Google last week revamped how it distributes its mobile apps in the European Union, introducing a licensing fee for device makers to access its app marketplace.

The Portuguese app store made its first complaint to the EU Directorate-General for Competition in 2014, being one of the original complainants in the Android case, the company said.

Aptoide has more than 250 million users and six billion downloads.

Reporting By Andrei Khalip, Catarina Demony and Foo Yun Chee, editing by Axel Bugge and Kirsten Donovan