European court upholds Brussels' €2.4 billion fine against Google for abuse of dominant position

The tech giant appealed the penalty, imposed in 2017 for favouring its Google Shopping price comparison site

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Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner for Competition, yesterday in Brussels.

BrusselsGood news for the European Commission's crusade against Google's monopolistic practices in Europe. The General Court of the European Union on Wednesday upheld the €2.4 billion penalty that Brussels imposed on the tech giant in 2017. The decision refers to the fine for abuse of a dominant position, because Margrethe Vestager's competition department found that the search engine systematically favoured the search pages of its price comparator, Google Shopping, ahead of other rival shoppers. Google can appeal the decision within the next two months.

When it was imposed, this was the highest penalty that the EU executive was pushing against Google, but later, in 2018, Brussels still punished the tech giant with a higher fine of 4.3 billion euros, also for abuse of dominant position in this case in the Android operating system, one of the most used in mobile devices. And there has still been a third fine of 1,490 million euros for blocking ads from rivals. However, in the last quarter of 2020 alone, Google's parent company, Alphabet, had a turnover of 56,898 million dollars, which makes the EU sanctions insignificant.

This ruling by the CJEU is therefore the first that could determine the path of this Brussels offensive against this technological giant, but also against others such as Apple and Amazon, for abuse of dominant position. In fact, it is precisely what the European Commission has in its hands is a forceful legislative package that even threatens to break up the technology giants to prevent this type of practice, which it considers anti-competitive because it prevents users from being able to enjoy other offers with the same conditions.

Specifically, the law that seeks to attack this front is the Digital Markets Act that would affect companies with more than 45 million users (10% of the EU population), which it considers "systemic". For example, Amazon or Google, which are both advertisers and ad boards (for services or mobile applications). The EU will consider them "guardians" of the market because they have "an extra responsibility". These companies will therefore be obliged to ensure third party access to their services, to allow other companies to advertise on their platform with access to analytics tools.

This directive, along with the Services and Digital Transparency Directive (more focused on privacy and consumer rights), is in full legislative negotiation between institutions and, therefore, the technology giants have multiplied lobbying efforts in the capital of the European institutions, because Europe seeks to be the first major market to put limits on their monopolistic practices, as claimed this week at the headquarters of the European Parliament the whistleblower of Facebook, Frances Haugen.