EU General Court Upholds '2.4 Billion Antitrust Fine Imposed On Google In The Google Shopping Case

Published date16 November 2021
Subject Matternti-trust/Competition Law, Antitrust, EU Competition
Law FirmGVZH Advocates
AuthorMr Karl Briffa, Gayle Kimberley and Nina Fauser

Background of the case

On the 27th June 2017, the European Commission imposed a record-breaking pecuniary penalty of over 2 billion Euro on Google (of which '523,518,000 was imposed jointly and severally on Google and its parent company Alphabet), for an alleged abuse of its dominant position when it favoured its own comparison-shopping search service over other competing comparison-shopping services in the market. Google and Alphabet proceeded to file proceedings against the Commission, before the General Court of the European Union, the second-highest court in the EU, to contest the imposition of such fine.

The decision by the General Court delivered on the 10th November 2021

Yesterday, in a major win for EU digital and competition chief, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, the General Court delivered a landmark judgement in the Google and Alphabet v. Commission (Google Shopping) case (Case T-612/17), whereby it largely dismissed the action brought by Google and Alphabet, and proceeded to uphold the fine imposed on the US tech giant.

The General Court found that "Google departed from competition on the merits" and noted that "the conduct in question was adopted intentionally, not negligently", whereby Google favoured its own comparison-shopping service through a more favourable display and positioning of the search results, as well as by using ranking algorithms to its advantage. The Court further noted that due to the universality of Google's general search engine, which should be designed in such a manner so as to display any possible content in a non-biased manner, by promoting a particular specialised result (i.e. its own services), this involved a certain form of abnormality, which was liable to lead to a weakening of competition in the market.

When analysing the effects of Google's abusive practice on competition, the General Court confirmed that, in line with Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union ('TFEU'), an abuse of a dominant position exists where the dominant undertaking hinders the maintenance of the degree of competition in the market or the growth of that competition through the use of methods different from those adopted under normal competitive circumstances, which abusive nature can be determined merely by demonstrating that such conduct is capable of restricting competition. After an analysis of the actual effects of Google's abusive practice on other competing comparison-shopping services' traffic, the Court...

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