Google loses challenge against EU antitrust ruling, $2.8 bn fine

Google has lost an appeal against a 2.42-billion-euro ($2.8-billion) antitrust decision.
Google developers
This follows the fine by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on the world’s most popular internet search engine over the use of its own price comparison shopping service in 2017 to gain an unfair advantage over smaller rivals in Europe.

The shopping case was the first of three decisions that saw Google rack up 8.25 billion euros in EU antitrust fines in the last decade, Reuters reported.

The company could face defeats in appeals against the other two rulings involving its Android mobile operating system and AdSense advertising service, where the EU has stronger arguments, antitrust specialists say.

The court’s support for the Commission in its latest ruling could also strengthen Vestager’s hand in her investigations into Amazon, Apple and Facebook.

The General Court largely dismisses Google’s action against the decision of the Commission finding that Google abused its dominant position by favouring its own comparison shopping service over competing comparison shopping services, the Court said.

The court said the Commission correctly found Google’s practices harmed competition and dismissed the company’s argument that the presence of merchant platforms showed there was strong competition.

It backed the Commission’s fine, citing the serious nature of the infringement and that the conduct in question was adopted intentionally, not negligently.

Google said it would review the judgment and that it has already complied with the Commission’s order to ensure a level playing field for rivals. It did not say if it would appeal to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), Europe’s top court.

The Commission will continue to use all tools at its disposal to address the role of big digital platforms on which businesses and users depend to, respectively, access end users and access digital services, the EU executive said in a statement.

In other investigations, the EU watchdog is focusing on Google’s use of data and its digital advertising business. The company is seeking to settle the latter case, a person familiar with the matter has told Reuters.

Thomas Vinje, a partner at law firm Clifford Chance and who advises several Google rivals, said Vestager should expand her investigation into other areas.

Separately, on Tuesday, the UK Supreme Court blocked a planned $4.3 billion class action against Google over allegations the internet giant unlawfully tracked the personal information of millions of iPhone users.

Britain’s top judges granted a Google appeal against the country’s first data privacy case, a move that upsets a string of similar claims waiting in the wings against companies such as Facebook and TikTok.

Google said it had focused for years on products and infrastructure that respect and protect people’s privacy, and that the claim was related to events that took place a decade ago and had been addressed at the time.