O Google lost an appeal against a 2.42 billion euros ($2.8 billion) European antitrust fine on Wednesday (10), a major victory for the bloc’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, in the first of three decisions that can strengthen the effort of European Union to regulate the tech giants.
Vestager fined the search engine for internet most popular in the world in 2017 for favoring its own price comparison service, giving it an unfair advantage against smaller European rivals.
The case was the first in a trio of decisions that have seen Google rack up a total of €8.25 billion in EU antitrust fines over the past decade.
The company could face even more defeats in the other two cases involving its mobile operating system Android and the AdSense advertising service, where the EU seems to have stronger arguments.
The court’s decision will strengthen Vestager in its investigations against Amazon, Apple and Facebook.
“The General Court broadly rejects Google’s action against the Commission’s decision that Google abused its dominant position by favoring its own price comparison service over competitors’ price comparison services,” the court said.
“Google has come out of the competition on merits,” the judges said.
The court said that the Commission correctly concluded that Google’s practices harmed competition and dismissed the company’s argument that the presence of commercial platforms showed that there was strong competition.
The court upheld the EU fine, citing the serious nature of the offense and the fact that “the conduct in question was carried out intentionally and not negligently.”
Google said it would review the judgment and that it has already complied with the commission’s order to guarantee a level playing field for rivals. The company did not say whether it would appeal to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), the most important in the Europe.
The European Commission welcomed the decision, saying it would bring legal clarity to the market.
“The Commission will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to deal with the role of large digital platforms that businesses and users rely on to respectively access end users and digital services,” the EU executive body said in a statement.
Rivals such as the US research site Yelp and companies in the travel, dining and lodging industries hope Vestager’s victory will revive other dormant investigations triggered by his complaints.
The EU watchdog is currently focusing its energies on Google’s data usage and its digital advertising business. The company is now trying to resolve the case, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Separately, on Tuesday (9), the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom rejected a $4.3 billion British class action suit against Google over allegations that the Internet giant illegally tracked the personal information of millions of iPhone users.
To boost its antitrust powers, Vestager last year proposed new benchmark technology rules that will force tech giants from USA to change their business models to ensure a level playing field for rivals.
Reference: CNN Brasil