Google loses battle with EU as court upholds 2017 order

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The flag of the European Union is seen with the Google logo.

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The EU General Court ruled on Wednesday that the European Commission was correct in fining Google for a violation of anti-rust laws, which represents a historic moment for the European Union’s antitrust policy.

The move comes after the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, said in 2017 that Google had promoted its own comparison shopping services and fined it € 2.42 billion (2, $ 8 billion) for breaking antitrust rules. The Google Alphabet unit has challenged the allegations in the EU’s second-highest court.

“The Tribunal notes that by favoring its own price comparison service on its general results pages by more favorable display and positioning, while relegating the results of competing comparison services to these pages by means of ranking algorithms , Google has deviated from the competition on the merits, “the court said in a statement Wednesday.

In addition, the court also confirmed the fine at 2.42 billion euros. “The Court concludes its analysis by noting that the amount of the financial penalty imposed on Google must be confirmed”, added the court.

Wednesday’s verdict can be appealed and taken to the EU’s highest court. The European Commission and Google were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC on Wednesday.

Legal precedent

This is not the first time that the General Court of the EU has ruled on an anti-rust case brought by the European Commission and directed against a tech giant.

The chamber ruled in July 2020 that the committee had failed to prove that the Irish government had given Apple a tax advantage – this was after the Brussels-based institution ordered the Republic of Ireland to recover 13 billion euros from the iPhone manufacturer in 2016.

The court ruling dealt a blow to EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager and her team. He was basically saying that they hadn’t done a good job of proving their case.

Vestager decided to appeal the ruling, pushing it to the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, where the case has yet to be decided.

At the time, the judgment of the General Court also highlighted one of the main challenges of European competition policy: in antitrust cases, it is the commission which must bear the weight of the evidence and not the defendant. .

The EU is currently discussing how to toughen its regulations to ensure fairer competition between the 27 member countries.

Thomas Vinje, Clifford Chance’s antitrust partner, told CNBC on Tuesday that the Tribunal’s decision “will put the wind in the sails of the DMA [Digital Markets Act]. “

The DMA is one of the major pieces of legislation the EU is working on and which, once approved, will seek to tackle the behaviors that close European markets.


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