Google lost an appeal Wednesday against a € 2.4 billion ($ 2.8 billion) fine imposed by the European Union for abusing its domain in search engines, scoring a big blockade win in its dispute. antitrust with the tech giant.
The ruling of the Luxembourg Court confirmed the historic decision of 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 illegal 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 topped by a € 4.3 billion fine against Google for its Android smartphone operating system.
In its appeal, Google and its parent company Alphabet argued that the European Union was “wrong in the substance of the law and in the facts and economic data” in the case of the search engine.
But the court said it had “largely rejected the lawsuit filed by the two companies, confirming the sanction imposed by the Commission.”
Favoring Google Shopping over its competitors in rankings and search rankings, he said, “Google has distanced itself from the competition on the basis of advantages.”
He dismissed Google’s argument that major online retailers have their own sites, saying “these platforms aren’t in the same market” where users make comparative purchases.
A Google spokesperson said the company will investigate the ruling. “This ruling refers to a number of very specific facts and, although we will examine them closely, we made changes in 2017 to comply with the decision of the European Commission.”
“Our approach of more than three years has generated billions of clicks for more than 700 comparison shopping services,” he said.
As Google suffered a setback in the European Union, the company blocked a separate lawsuit in Britain on Wednesday as the Supreme Court blocked a $ 4 billion class action lawsuit accusing it of illegally tracing millions of dollars. iPhone users.
– Big win for Brussels –
The Luxembourg court ruling is a victory for EU antitrust chief Marguerite Vestager, 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 another major case against Apple and Ireland in which his team ordered the iPhone company to pay € 13 billion plus interest to Irish taxpayers. The European Union has challenged this ruling.
The fine was imposed on Google after a seven-year investigation that began following complaints from other price comparison services that saw a steep drop in traffic compared to Google Shopping.
Experts believe that, if the ruling is not overturned in a subsequent appeal, similar actions by Google on vacation rentals and job advertisements could be the next target of the EU Commission.
In addition to paying the fine, Google was asked to address the issue identified by the EU case, including with an appeal.
The company changed the search view to give more prominence to competing business complexes, as well as tourism and travel advisory sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp.
– ‘Almost invisible’ –
But many competitors are dissatisfied 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 Kelkoo.
The European Consumer Organization (BEUC) said that “Google’s deceptive and unfair practices have harmed millions of European consumers by ensuring that competing 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 services in other areas,” said Monique Goines, Director General of the European Consumer Organization.
Meanwhile, the European Antitrust Commission is preparing the legislation scheduled for next year that will impose tough rules on big techs.
One of the laws, called the Digital Markets Act, sets out a clear list of dos and don’ts for online “gatekeepers” and includes strict limits on how Google or other giants can pressure competitors on their platforms.
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