Google loses antitrust battle with EU, court upholds $2.8B fine

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European regulators scored a major win against Google on Wednesday as a court rejected the tech giant’s attempt to appeal a $2.8 billion antitrust fine.

The fine was first levied by European Union competition chief Margrethe Vestager in 2017 over Google boosting its own price-comparison shopping service in search results to give it an unfair advantage against smaller European rivals. 

“The General Court largely dismisses Google’s action against the decision of the Commission finding that Google abused its dominant position by favoring its own comparison shopping service over competing comparison shopping services,” wrote the European Union’s Luxembourg-based general court. “Google departed from competition on the merits.” 

The court said the Commission correctly found that Google’s practices harmed competition and backed the EU fine, citing the serious nature of the infringement and the fact that “the conduct in question was adopted intentionally, not negligently.”

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Google could appeal the $2.8 billion fine to Europe’s highest court but did not immediately say whether it plans to do so.
AFP via Getty Images

The shopping case was the first of a trio of decisions that has seen Google rack up a total of $9.5 billion in EU antitrust fines in the last decade. Two other cases that Vestager brought against Google, over its Android mobile operating system in 2018 and AdSense advertising service in 2019, are currently going through similar appeals processes. 

Google could appeal the $2.8 billion fine to Europe’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, but did not immediately say whether it plans to do so.

Wednesday’s ruling focused narrowly on comparison shopping services, but rivals in the travel, restaurant and hotel industries hope that Vestager’s victory will revive other dormant investigations triggered by their complaints.

“While the decision focuses on comparison shopping, it establishes a framework for the swift assessment of the illegality of this type of conduct in other verticals, namely local search,” said Luther Lowe, senior vice president of public policy at crowd-sourced reviews app Yelp, in a statement to The Post.

“Rather than accept a Pyrrhic victory, the European Commission must now take this favorable precedent and prosecute Google for its parallel abuses in the local search market and allow services like Yelp to compete on the merits.”

With Post wires

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