Google experienced a setback in the European courts on Thursday, as a General Attorney defended the €2.4 billion fine imposed by Brussels for anti-competitive practises in the price-comparison market, in a legal dispute almost 15 years old.
The European Commission – which protects competition within the EU – penalised Google in June 2017 for abusing its dominant online search position.
The technology giant is accused of favouring its price comparison tool, Google Shopping, by making its competitors practically invisible to consumers using its search engine. It has consequently been forced to alter its search result displays to meet European requirements.
General Attorney for the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Juliane Kokott, recommended on Thursday to “confirm the €2.4 billion fine”. These non-binding opinions are usually upheld by judges but it will be several months before the Luxembourg-based court makes its final ruling. The ECJ will provide a conclusive decision on whether the fine will be applied, with the European Union Court having already confirmed the fine at the first instance.
The case began in 2010, following a Brussels investigation prompted by complaints lodged by Google Shopping competitors. The California-based company holds the record for the three largest fines ever issued by the European executive for anti-competitive behaviour, totalling more than €8 billion.
The €2.4 billion fine concerning Google Shopping – issued at the time – was a record amount. It was eventually surpassed in 2018 by the €4.3 billion fine in relation to the Android mobile phone operating system. Additionally, the company was fined €1.5 billion in 2019 due to violations associated with its AdSense advertising service.