Google loses appeal against €2.4 billion EU fine for demoting rival shopping services

Europe's General Court has sided with the European Commission in its finding that Google gave preferential treatment to its own price-comparison services while relegating the results of competitors.

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In a big win for Europe's antitrust regulators, Google has lost an appeal that sought to overturn an antitrust ruling by the European Commission, which found the company used its search engine to promote its own shopping comparison service while demoting competitor services.

The European Commission ruling was made in 2017, with the regulator doling out a €2.42 billion fine against Google as a result of the preferential treatment it gave to its own price-comparison services. At the time, it was the largest penalty that the European Commission had ever issued.    

The €2.42 billion fine would become the first of three issued to Google by European Commission EVP Margrethe Vestager, with the latter two being issued for Google's alleged anticompetitive practices in Android and AdSense. Combined, the three fines amount to over €8 billion in value.

Like the €2.42 billion fine, Google has filed appeals for the other two fines.

In the General Court verdict, the court upheld the European Commission ruling and the €2.42 billion fine as it "recognised the anticompetitive nature" of Google favouring its own comparison shopping service on its general results pages through more favourable display and positioning.

"Google favours its own comparison shopping service over competing services, rather than a better result over another result," the court wrote in its verdict.

"Even if the results from competing comparison shopping services were more relevant, they could never receive the same treatment as results from Google's comparison shopping service in terms of their positioning or their display."

While the General Court is a blow to Google, the search giant can file another appeal at the European Court of Justice, which is the EU's highest court.

At the end of last year, the European Commission proposed two pieces of legislation that, if passed, would compel big tech companies to take down harmful content and open up competition, otherwise they risk paying hefty fines.

The rules, which are still being considered by the European Parliament, are what the Commission has labelled as its answer to a deep reflection process of the effects that digitalisation, and more specifically big tech, has had on fundamental rights, competition, and the economy.

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