Google loses appeal of huge EU fine for shopping searches

LONDON – A European Union Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday dismissed Google’s appeal for a € 2.4 billion ($ 2.8 billion) fine from regulators who discovered that the the technology had abused its vast online reach by giving its own buy recommendations an illegal advantage in search results.

The European Commission, the main competition watchdog of the bloc of 27 countries, punished Google in 2017 for unfairly directing visitors to its own shopping service, Google Shopping, to the detriment of its competitors. The EU General Court ruled that it “largely rejected” Google’s appeal against this antitrust sanction and maintained the fine.

“The Court thus judges that in reality, Google favors its own price comparison service over competing services, rather than a better result compared to another result,” he said in a statement.

Google said it made changes in 2017 to comply with the European Commission ruling.

“Our approach has worked successfully for more than three years, generating billions of clicks for more than 700 comparison shopping services,” a statement from Google said.

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The fine was part of an effort by European regulators to reduce the online giant’s influence on the continent. This was followed by two more successful antitrust sanctions against Google, totaling 8.25 billion euros ($ 9.5 billion), which the company also appealed.

The sanctions were the first rounds in the EU’s crackdown on tech companies, which has expanded to include other digital giants in Silicon Valley. The commission launched new antitrust investigations this year to determine whether Google and Facebook are stifling competition in the digital advertising and classifieds markets. It is also investigating Apple on payments and Amazon on concerns that it unfairly competes with independent merchants on its platform with its own products.

Meanwhile, the EU and UK are developing new rules to make social media companies more responsible for illegal and harmful content on their platforms, with the threat of fines of up to 10% of annual revenue global if they do not comply.

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Wednesday’s decision can still be appealed to the European Court of Justice, the bloc’s highest court, but only on points of law, not facts. Google has not decided to do so, saying it will take a close look at the decision.

The case began after the commission received a complaint in 2009 that led to an investigation, with EU regulators demanding that Google change the way it delivers search results in Europe.

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