Google loses €2.4bn antitrust fight in EU, wins data privacy case in UK

10 Nov 2021

Image: © Sundry Photography/Stock.adobe.com

The EU’s General Court found Google had ‘abused its dominant position’ in anti-competition behaviour, marking a big win for the Commission.

The EU’s second-highest court has today (10 November) upheld a €2.42bn antitrust fine given to Google in 2017 by the European Commission following what it found was a breach of competition laws.

Dismissing Google’s appeal against the initial decision, the EU General Court said the company had “abused its dominant position” by favouring its own comparison shopping service over competing European comparison shopping services.

Future Human

“By favouring its own comparison shopping service on its general results pages through more favourable display and positioning, while relegating the results from competing comparison services in those pages by means of ranking algorithms, Google departed from competition on the merits,” the General Court said in a statement.

Google can now appeal this decision at the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice.

Victory for Vestager

The move is a major victory for Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s top commissioner responsible for competition, who has taken on Big Tech with several investigations.

The latest major antitrust probe by the EU has been the investigation into Nvidia’s plan to acquire UK-based chip maker Arm. The European Commission said it was worried the merger would hike prices and restrict access for Nvidia’s rivals to Arm’s intellectual property.

In July 2020, the General Court ruled in favour of Apple and Ireland in a longstanding case against the Commission, annulling the decision for Apple to pay €14.2bn in alleged unpaid taxes covering an 11-year period, including interest. However, Vestager is seeking to overturn that verdict with the European Court of Justice.

UK court win

Despite the big blow for Google in the EU today, the tech giant has won an appeal in the UK. The UK Supreme Court blocked a $4bn class-action suit against Google for allegedly tracking iOS users without their consent between 2011 and 2012, according to Bloomberg.

The data privacy lawsuit was filed on behalf of millions iPhone users by a UK-based advocacy group called Google You Owe Us, led by consumer rights activist Richard Lloyd.

“In order to recover compensation for any given individual, it would be necessary to show both that Google made some unlawful use of personal data relating to that individual and that individual suffered some damage as a result,” said George Leggatt, the judge at the ruling.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com