The flag of the European Union can be seen with the Google logo.
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The EU court ruled on Wednesday that the European Commission rightly fined Google for violating antitrust law – a milestone for EU policy that could affect the business models of large tech companies.
The verdict comes after the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, declared in 2017 that Google preferred its own price comparison services and fined the company € 2.42 billion for violating antitrust rules. The alphabet unit Google has challenged the claims before the second highest court in the EU.
“The court found that by giving preference to its own price comparison service on its general results pages through a more favorable display and positioning, while the results of competing comparison services on these pages were pushed back by ranking algorithms, it deviated from the competition in the matter”, shared the court in a press release on Wednesday.
In addition, the court also upheld the € 2.42 billion fine. “The court concludes its analysis by stating that the amount of the fine imposed on Google needs to be confirmed,” the court added.
Wednesday’s judgment can be appealed and brought before the highest court in the EU. The European Commission and Google were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday when they were contacted by CNBC.
The legal precedent
This is not the first time that the EU court has ruled against a technology giant in antitrust proceedings filed by the European Commission.
The board ruled in July 2020 that the Commission had failed to prove that the Irish government had granted Apple a tax break after the Brussels-based institution of the Republic of Ireland ordered in 2016 to reclaim € 13 billion from the iPhone maker.
The court ruling dealt a severe blow to Margrethe Vestager, head of the EU competition, and her team. It basically meant that they couldn’t prove their case well.
Vestager decided to appeal the decision and referred it to the highest court in the EU, the European Court of Justice, where the case has not yet been decided.
The judgment of the court also highlighted one of the central challenges for European competition policy: In cartel cases, the Commission has to bear the brunt of the evidence and not the accused.
Impact on Big Tech?
The EU is currently discussing how its regulations can be tightened to ensure fairer competition in the 27 member states.
Thomas Vinje, an antitrust partner with law firm Clifford Chance, told CNBC on Tuesday that the court’s ruling “will put the wind in the DMA’s sails”. [Digital Markets Act]. “
The DMA is one of the major pieces of legislation the EU is working on and which, once adopted, will attempt to combat any behavior that seals off European markets. It could lead to changes in parts of the business models of the tech giants.
One of the possible changes is to end self-preference – for example, when app search results are shown in the display options of an Apple product, developed by the tech giant. The idea is to give smaller app developers an equal chance of being found and selected by consumers. Legislators are also considering restricting targeted advertising to give users more privacy. This could also affect how big tech works.