A top European Union court on Wednesday rejected Google’s appeal against a 2.4 billion euro (£2 billion) fine from regulators who found the tech giant abused its massive online reach by giving its own shopping recommendations an illegal advantage in search results.
he European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s top competition watchdog, punished Google in 2017 for unfairly directing visitors to its own shopping service, Google Shopping, to the detriment of competitors.
The EU’s General Court dismissed Google’s appeal against that antitrust penalty and upheld the fine.
“The General Court thus rules that, in reality, Google favours its own comparison shopping service over competing services, rather than a better result over another result,” it said in a press release.
Google said it made changes in 2017 to comply with the European Commission’s decision.
“Our approach has worked successfully for more than three years, generating billions of clicks for more than 700 comparison shopping services,” a Google statement said.
The fine was part of an effort by European regulators to curb the online giant’s clout on the continent. It was followed by two other blockbuster antitrust penalties against Google, totalling 8.25 billion euros (£7 billion), which the company also is appealing against.
The penalties were early salvos in the EU’s crackdown on tech companies, which has expanded to include other Silicon Valley digital giants.
The commission this year launched fresh antitrust investigations into whether Google and Facebook are stifling competition in digital and classified advertising markets.
It is also investigating Apple over payments and Amazon over concerns it is unfairly competing against independent merchants on its platform with its own products.
Meanwhile, the EU also is drafting new digital rules to rein in online services by making them more accountable for illegal goods and harmful content found on their platforms, with the threat of fines worth up to 10% of global annual revenue.
An appeal against Wednesday’s ruling can still be heard by the European Court of Justice, the bloc’s highest court, but only on points of law, not the facts. Google has not decided whether to do so, saying it will closely review the decision.
The case began after the commission received a complaint in 2009 that led to an investigation, with EU regulators demanding Google change the way it provides search results in Europe.
The commission welcomed the court’s new ruling.
“The judgment today delivers a clear message that Google’s conduct was unlawful and it provides the necessary legal clarity for the market,” spokesperson Arianna Podesta said in a press briefing in Brussels.