Bad news for Alphabet, as advisor to Europe’s top court says $2.7bn antitrust fine for online shopping, should be upheld
Alphabet’s management has been handed some bad news in Google’s attempt to overthrow a multi billion dollar antitrust fine from the European Commission.
Reuters reported that an adviser to Europe’s highest, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), said on Thursday that Google’s 2.42bn euro ($2.7 billion) EU antitrust fine by the European Commission should be upheld.
It was back in 2017, when the European Commission had fined Google 2.42bn euros ($2.7bn) after it ruled that Google had used its own price comparison shopping service to gain an unfair advantage over smaller European rivals.
Then in September 2023 Alphabet began its final attempt to appeal the mammoth fine for the alleged market abuse of its online shopping service, with a final appeal at the Court of Justice of the European Union – or CJEU.
Google had argued at the CJEU that EU regulators in 2017 had failed to show that its practices were anti-competitive.
CJEU advocate general Juliane Kokott had said she would issue her non-binding opinion on 11 January 2024.
And now Reuters reported that Advocate General at the CJEU, Juliane Kokott, has said judges should confirm the fine.
The CJEU rarely disagrees with the advice of the CJEU Advocate General, and the judges are expected to issue a final ruling in the coming months.
“Google, as found by the Commission and confirmed by the General Court, was leveraging its dominant position on the market for general search services to favour its own comparison shopping service by favouring the display of its results,” Kokott was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Google said it would review the opinion and wait for the court ruling.
“Irrespective of the appeal, we continue to invest in our remedy, which has been working successfully for several years, and will continue to work constructively with the European Commission,” a company spokesperson was quoted as saying.
EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager is scheduled to meet Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and other Big Tech leaders in the United States later on Thursday to discuss competition and digital issues.
Other antitrust fines
This 2.42bn euros ($2.7bn) fine was issued after the European Commission in 2017 had ruled that Google had thwarted rivals of its shopping comparison service.
It was the first of three penalties for anti-competitive practices that have cost Google 8.25 billion euros in total in the last decade.
The next significant antitrust fine came in July 2018, when the European Commission fined Google a record 4.3 billion euros ($4.6bn) for commercial practices related to its Android mobile operating system, the world’s largest ever antitrust penalty.
This was followed in March 2019 when Google was once again hit with a hefty financial penalty from European antitrust regulators. That fine concerned the firm’s AdSense advertising service and Google was ordered to pay 1.49bn euros ($1.6bn).
Google is also challenging these other fines.
However the most serious issue for Alphabet’s management is the ongoing EU antitrust case into Google’s lucrative digital advertising business, that had begun back in June 2021.
And in an ominous sign for Google in June 2023, European regulators warned of antitrust violations in Google’s ad tech business and threaten to break up Google’s advertising business.