Alphabet Inc., the company behind Google, has lost its appeal against a €2.42 billion antitrust fine imposed on it by the European Commission in relation to its shopping service.
The ruling was handed out by the European General Court (EGC), the lower tribunal of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and is a big victory for Europe’s competition chief in the first of three court rulings that are vital to the EU’s push to bring big tech to heel.
The Commission argued that Google had unfairly used its search engine – the most widely used in the world – to redirect traffic to Google Shopping, a service that allows users to compare products and prices from online retailers.
Consequently, people were only exposed to this platform, turning it into the de facto default option for online shoppers.
“The General Court finds that, by favouring its own comparison shopping service on its general results pages through more favourable display and positioning, while relegating the results from competing comparison services in those pages by means of ranking algorithms, Google departed from competition on the merits,” the court said in a press release on Wednesday.
The Commission argued that making rival services practically invisible breaches EU competition rules and distorts the internal market.
In response, Google said the Commission’s reasoning was “wrong on the law, the facts and the economics” and that its service had actually increased choice for consumers.
Despite the latest ruling, Google can submit a further appeal to the higher European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The tech giant is also embroiled in two other antitrust investigations, namely a record-breaking €4.34 billion fine for allegedly imposing illegal restrictions on devices run by its own Android operating system, and a €1.49 billion fine for alleged abusive practices in online advertising.
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