Google suffered a significant defeat Wednesday in its appeal against a €2.42bn ($2.8bn) EU fine, a landmark ruling that is likely to strengthen the EU’s efforts as it seeks to regulate big technology companies.
The decision relates to a 2017 ruling by the European Commission, where it was found that Alphabet, parent company to the world’s most popular search engine, abused its market dominance by favoring its own price-comparison shopping service over competitors. Consequently, the Commission had fined Google €2.42 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules.
The present ruling by the Luxembourg-based General Court dismissed Google’s action against the decision of the Commission and found that “the results of product searches made using Google’s general search engine were positioned and displayed in a more eye-catching manner when the results came from Google’s own comparison shopping service than when they came from competing comparison shopping services.”
The General Court concurred with the Commission’s assessment that Google’s practices had a detrimental impact on competition and rejected the tech giant’s argument that the presence of merchant platforms indicated intense competition in the shopping comparison market.
The General Court rejected most of Google’s claims, taking seriously the nature of the infringement and the fact that the questionable conduct was “adopted intentionally, not negligently,” it upheld the €2.42bn penalty levied on the tech giant by the Commission.
Welcoming the decision, the Commission in its statement said that the judgment “delivers the clear message that Google’s conduct was unlawful and…provides the necessary legal clarity for the market.”
It further stated:
Comparison shopping delivers an important service to consumers, at a time when e-commerce has become more and more important for retailers and consumers. As digital services have become omnipresent in our society nowadays, consumers should be able to rely on them in order to make informed and unbiased choices.
It is not clear yet whether Google will pursue an appeal against the decision of the General Court and the financial penalty to the EU Court of Justice, Europe’s top court.