Big tech companies have faced tough regulations in the EU since the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act were introduced last year. Despite spending millions on lobbying, companies like Google and Facebook have faced large fines for breaking the rules.
Now, the EU General Court has ruled in favor of the competition regulator and issued Google with a €2.4 billion fine for breaking competition laws and promoting its own shopping service.
This confirms that, despite an appeal by Google, a landmark decision by the Commission has approved sanctions against the company for abusing its dominant position in the market.
Since 2010, there has been a multitude of complaints against the tech giant for purposely displaying its own Shopping Unit in a way that would distract from its competitors. This prompted the European Commission to launch an antitrust investigation.
In 2017, the Commission found that Google’s algorithm had been demoting shopping services of its competitors in the general results page, which goes against EU competition laws. On Wednesday, this resulted in the fine being imposed in court.
The judges in the case pointed out that a high volume of web traffic was being directed to Google’s shopping services, as most consumers stick to the highest results. Additionally, a lot of traffic was diverted away from competitors, making it harder for them to compete.
These actions have harmed millions of consumers in Europe, as well as small and medium-sized businesses. Consumers have, since 2010, been prevented from getting product information from other shopping services that are potentially cheaper.
Google has disputed the decision, saying, “Shopping ads have always helped people find the products they are looking for quickly and easily, and helped merchants to reach potential customers. This judgment relates to a very specific set of facts and while we will review it closely, we made changes back in 2017 to comply with the European Commission’s decision.”
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