E.U. court upholds €2.4 billion antitrust fine against Google

Published : November 11, 2021 16:43 IST

A woman walks past the logo for Google at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai. Photo: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File

A leading E.U. court has rejected an appeal by Google over a fine for demoting rival shopping services.

Google lost an appeal on November 10 against a massive E.U. competition fine for squeezing rival shopping services on its search engine. After years of investigation, the European Commission said the U.S. tech giant had regularly given preferential treatment to its own shopping service and demoted rivals in search results.

What are the details of the E.U.'s antitrust case against Google?

The Commission handed Google a €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion) fine in 2017. It was the first of three antitrust penalties, totaling more than €8 billion, that the E.U.'s executive branch has handed Google in recent years. Google complied with the decision and changed the way its shopping services worked but appealed the fine. The company argued that the fine was "wrong on the law, the facts, and the economics."

"Our approach has worked successfully for more than three years, generating billions of clicks for more than 700 comparison shopping services,'' Google said. However, the E.U. General Court rejected that appeal on November 10. "The [court] thus rules that, in reality, Google favors its own comparison shopping service over competing services, rather than a better result over another result," it said in a press release.

The Commission began proceedings in the case in November 2010, following several complaints made by European and U.S. competitors. The decision can still be appealed at the European Court of Justice, the bloc's highest court.

U.K. blocks billion-pound lawsuit

Meanwhile, the U.K. Supreme Court on November 10 blocked a planned 3.2 billion pound ($4.3 billion) British class action suit against Google over allegations that the company had unlawfully tracked the personal information of millions of iPhone users. The country's top judges unanimously granted an appeal against the country's first such data privacy case, in a move that challenges a string of similar claims against other similar companies such as Facebook and TikTok.

Google said the claim was related to events that took place a decade ago and were addressed at the time. "People want to know that they are safe and secure online, which is why for years we've focused on building products and infrastructure that respect and protect people's privacy," a Google spokesperson said.

Richard Lloyd, a consumer rights activist, alleged that Google secretly took more than 5 million Apple iPhone users' personal data between 2011 and 2012 by bypassing default privacy settings on the Safari browser to track internet browsing histories.

The history of the E.U. vs. Big Tech

The antitrust ruling comes amid a slew of efforts to rein in major U.S. tech companies, including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. The companies, collectively dubbed GAFAM, have been accused of dodging taxes, stifling competition, stealing media content and threatening democracy by spreading fake news.

In 2013, the E.U. fined Microsoft €561 million for imposing its browser Internet Explorer on users of Windows 7. Meanwhile, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have also been the targets of E.U. probes for possible violations of competition rules, and E.U. courts have ruled to hike fines for tech firms that break competition rules.

lc/rt (dpa, AFP)