Google has once again sought to overturn a €2.4 billion ($2.6 billlion) fine imposed by the European Union in 2017 after it found the company had violated antitrust rules by using its dominant position in the search engine market to illegally promote its comparison shopping service.
Google originally appealed the fine the ruling in the General Court — the EU’s lower court — in 2021, but the decision was upheld. The company has now again sought to challenge the fine, this time in Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), arguing that the EU had failed to demonstrate how its practices were anticompetitive.
“Companies do not compete by treating competitors equally with themselves,” said Thomas Graf, a lawyer for Google, according to a report by Bloomberg. “The whole point of competition is for a company to differentiate itself from rivals. Not to align with rivals so that all are the same.”
CJEU Advocate General Juliane Kokott said she would issue her non-binding opinion on January 11, with the CJEU set to rule in the months following her recommendation.
The original 2017 ruling against Google was the first of three penalties handed out to the company for anticompetitive practice in the EU. In total, fines levied against the company have totaled €8.25 billion in the last decade. The other cases for which Google was found to be in breach of EU regulations were related to its Android mobile operating system — in which Google lost an appeal last year — and its AdSense advertising service.
As a result of the AdSense case, regulators earlier this year issued a threat that they would try to break up the company if Google did not attempt to regulate its behavior.
Google’s ongoing antitrust woes in the US
Last week, Google found itself in court on the other side of the pond, defending itself against the first of two major lawsuits brought forward by the US government. In these cases, the government alleges that Google has illegally used its dominance in search to quash competition, to the detriment of the public at large.
The case that opened last week is targeted at Google’s search business, with a second trial against the tech giant, focusing on advertising, scheduled for next year.
“This case is about the future of the internet, whether the Google search engine will ever face meaningful competition to protect that future,” said Kenneth Dintzer, deputy director in the DOJ’s civil division, during opening arguments last week in the search case.
The trial is expected to last 10 weeks.
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