Google recently appealed the record-breaking €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion US) antitrust fine that was levied against the tech giant by the European Union this past June for allegations that the company promoted its own price comparison services over competitors’. The fine is the largest antitrust penalty in the history of the entire European Commission, the executive body and antitrust watchdog of the EU.
Google was asked initially to alter its practices by Sept. 28 of this year, following a seven-year investigation into the tech company’s alleged anticompetitive search behavior. This appeal is expected to take several years to be issued a ruling or could quite possibly result in no ruling whatsoever, allowing the San Francisco tech giant to get away scot-free.
Emboldening Google is a decision from the European Union’s Court of Justice last week that saw a $1.3 billion dollar antitrust fine against Intel was sent back to a lower court, dealing a blow to the commission by opening the possibility that the fine could be lowered and/or erased. This gives tech giants the confidence to more aggressively fight the European Union in regard to antitrust issues.
The commission’s findings said that Google’s alleged manipulation of search results in order to promote its own price comparison shopping services within its own search engine led to as much as a 45-fold boost in traffic within just the United Kingdom. Google, of course, disputed the findings, saying that the company’s actions did not adversely affect competition in the European online shopping market.
“What Google has done is illegal under European Union antitrust rules,” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said initially. “It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”
Although antitrust-related legal battles have been known to drag on for years and become mired in regulatory bureaucracy, Google’s case made headlines for a relatively high-profile incident that involved a prominent academic critic. The New York Times reported late last month that Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and the current executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, pressured the New America think tank to cut ties with Open Markets, a program that researcher Barry Lynn was in charge of. After Lynn and his group praised the EU’s fine, Barry Lynn was then fired by New America.