“Today’s judgment gives the European Commission the ammunition it needs to tighten the screws on Google in other areas where it is throwing its weight around, like in online advertising, app stores and video streaming."
The EU’s second-most senior court, the General Court, has upheld a 2017 ruling by the European Commission which found that Google broke antitrust law in how it used its search engine to promote its shopping comparison service and demote those of its rivals, the Verge reports.
Google and its parent company Alphabet appealed the decision, but the General Court today dismissed that appeal and upheld a fine of €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion). Google and Alphabet now have the option to appeal the decision yet again with the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
This outcome is significant as it strengthens antitrust arguments made by the EU’s influential competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager against US tech firms. In addition to this shopping comparison case, Google has been hit by two other major antitrust cases involving Android and AdSense in 2018 and 2019 respectively. These cases are now going through a similar appeal process to the one Google lost today with Google Shopping.
Key to Vestager’s legal argument in this and other antitrust cases is the concept of “self-preferencing” — the idea that a company like Google can break antitrust law by using a dominant position in one market (in Google’s case, search) to help it succeed in another (in this case, shopping). Self-preferencing is not itself a breach of EU antitrust law, but its potential harmful effects — like stifling better products made by rivals — are.
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