Monday, November 29

European court rejects Google’s appeal over a €2.4 billion fine for violating competition rules

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In a ruling marking a major victory for the European bloc in its dispute with the technology giant, Google lost an appeal Wednesday against a fine of 2.4 billion euros ($ 2.8 billion) imposed by the European Union for abusing its dominance in search engines. But Google can appeal the ruling again if it decides to take the case to the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice.

On Wednesday, the European judiciary confirmed a ruling ordering the payment of a company google A fine of 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) was imposed on it by the European Union for abusing its dominance of search engines, in a decision that is a major victory for the European bloc in its dispute with the tech giant.

The ruling by the General Court of Luxembourg confirmed the historic decision made by the European Commission in 2017.

But Google can appeal the ruling again if it decides to take the case to the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice.

“Today’s ruling sends a clear message that Google’s conduct was unlawful and provides the necessary legal clarity to the market,” the European Commission said in a statement.

The case centers on Google’s shopping service and is one of three cases against the search engine giant that is currently moving through the EU’s lengthy appeals system.

At the time, it was the largest fine ever imposed by the European Union. But it was later overtaken by a €4.3 billion fine against Google over its Android smartphone operating system.

In its appeal, Google and its parent company, Alphabet, argued that the EU was “erroneous in the substance of the law and the economic facts and data” in the search engine case.

But the court said it had “mostly rejected the lawsuit brought by the two companies, upholding the fine imposed by the Commission.”

By favoring Google Shopping over its competitors in search results and positioning, she said, “Google has moved away from the competition on the basis of advantages.”

She dismissed Google’s argument that major online retailers have their own sites, saying that “these platforms are not in the same market” where users go for comparison shopping.

A Google spokesperson said the company will study the ruling. “This ruling relates to a very specific set of facts, and while we will review them closely, we made changes in 2017 to comply with the European Commission’s decision.”

“Our approach for more than three years has generated billions of clicks for over 700 comparison shopping services,” he said.

As Google suffered a setback in the European Union, the company blocked a separate legal action in Britain on Wednesday as the Supreme Court blocked a $4 billion class action lawsuit accusing it of illegally tracking millions of iPhone users.

Big win for Brussels

The Luxembourg court ruling is a victory for Marguerite Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief, who rose to prominence in Brussels by abandoning her predecessor’s more conciliatory approach to the US internet giant.

Vestager lost in the same court in a different major case against Apple and Ireland in which her team ordered the iPhone company to pay 13 billion euros plus interest to Irish taxpayers. The European Union has appealed this ruling.

The fine was imposed on Google after a seven-year investigation began after complaints from other price comparison services that saw a sharp drop in traffic compared to Google Shopping.

Experts believe that if the ruling is not overturned in a subsequent appeal, Google’s similar actions on vacation rentals and job ads could be the next target of the EU Commission.

Besides paying the fine, Google was asked to address the issue identified by the EU lawsuit, even with an appeal.

The company has modified the search display to give more prominence to competing shopping complexes, as well as travel and tourism consultancy sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.

Insufficient judgment

But many competitors are unhappy with Google’s reforms, which they say do nothing to ensure fair competition in search results.

“What really matters … is to prevent Google from repeating its behavior in the future and to protect European consumers,” said Richard Staples of price comparison site Kelco.

The European Consumer Organization said Google’s “misleading and unfair practices have harmed millions of European consumers by ensuring that competitive comparison shopping services are made virtually invisible”.

“In light of the ruling, we ask the European Commission to ensure that Google does not abuse its control as a search engine by prioritizing its own services in other areas,” said Monique Goines, director-general of the European Consumer Organization.


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