European justice confirms the fine of 2.424 million to Google

The General Court of the European Union has endorsed this Wednesday the fine of 2,424 million euros imposed by the European Commission on Google in June 2017 for abuse of a dominant position in internet searches, by favoring its price comparison service (Google shopping) in front of your rivals in your search engine. The decision gives oxygen to the vice president and head of competition, Margrethe Vestager, and represents a victory in their strategy against the American tech giant.

The European justice thus dismisses the appeal of the Californian company against the first of the three fines imposed by the community competition services in the last four years, and that in total add up to more than 8.2 billion euros. According to the General Court, the problem in this case is not the dominant position of the company itself, even one with a size like Google or planning to expand into a neighboring market, but the fact that, by favoring its own price comparison service on its general results pages, by means of a privileged positioning, relegates the results of competing buyers through ranking algorithms which leads to a weakening your rivals. “Google turned away from the competition on its own merits & rdquor ;, notes the ruling.

The ruling, which can still be appealed before the Court of Justice of the EU within a period of two months and ten days although limited to questions of law, also affects that the American giant favors its own buyer over those of its rivals and not obtaining a better result than another. That is, even if the results of the competition were more relevant, they would not benefit from a treatment similar to that obtained by the results obtained with the Google service with respect to the positioning and visibility.

The judges also point out that the multinational has not shown that the effectiveness of its system outweighs the negative effects on competition and they reject the argument that they should not be subject to any sanction. The General Court emphasizes in particular the “particularly serious nature of the offense& rdquor; and warns that the conduct in question “was adopted intentionally, not through negligence & rdquor ;, for which they consider that the amount imposed by Vestager should be confirmed.

First record fine

It is one of the three major disputes opened by Brussels against the Californian multinational. After seven years of investigation, the European Commission decided in June 2017 – the investigation was launched with Joaquin Almunia as competition commissioner in November 2010 – that he had sufficient evidence to accuse Google of a dominant position in the internet search market by favoring its price comparison system (Google shopping) to the detriment of its rivals. The company was launched in this business in 2004 by the hand of a product called Froodle that in 2008 it renamed Google Product Search and finally Google shopping in 2013. This service allows you to compare the price of products and prices on the internet and find offers from retailers in online both in virtual stores and on platforms such as eBay or Amazon.

Given Google’s dominant position in the general internet search market – it has had 90% of the market share in most Member States since 2008 – the company can consistently place its service prominently and relegate that of its rivals. A strategy that, according to the European Commission, it inaugurated in Germany and extended to 13 countries. The result of more clicks in the Google comparator and a record fine of 2,424 million.

Two more fines and another investigation

This sanction was surpassed a year later by a second fine of 4.340 million for abuse of a dominant position in the market through its Android operating system, used by more than 80% of smartphones, by imposing restrictions that Brussels considers illegal. The Californian multinational has also appealed this second decision and the Court of Justice will decide in the coming months since the hearing concluded at the beginning of October. To these two fines is added a third of 1,490 million imposed by Brussels in March 2019 for anti-competitive practices when Google took advantage of its dominant position in the advertising market through its Adsense for Search service.

Related news

These three cases are not the only ones Vestager has in its sights. Last June, competing services opened another investigation to determine whether the internet giant has violated the European competition rules by favoring their own services online display advertising technology, to the detriment of other providers, advertisers and online publishers. The goal: to determine if Google is distorting competition by restricting the third party access to user data for advertising purposes on websites and applications, while reserving such data for its own use. The European Commission has welcomed the ruling and has warned that it will continue to use “all the tools at its disposal” to address the role of large digital platforms, “said a spokeswoman.

Google, for its part, assures that “‘Shopping’ ads have always helped people to find those products they were looking for quickly and easily and merchants to reach potential buyers. This opinion is about very specific facts And although we are going to look at it in great detail, we already made changes in 2017 to comply with the decision of the European Commission. These changes have worked successfully generating 1 billion clicks for more than 700 price comparison services. “

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