1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

EU court upholds €2.4 billion antitrust fine against Google

November 10, 2021

A leading EU court has rejected an appeal by Google over a fine for demoting rival shopping services. The penalty was the first of three antitrust penalties.

A Google office in New York City
Google argued that a fine was "wrong on the law, the facts and the economics."Image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Google lost an appeal Wednesday against a massive EU competition fine for squeezing rival shopping services on its search engine.

After years of investigation, the European Commission said the US tech giant had regularly given preferential treatment to its own shopping service and demoted rivals in search results.

What are the details of the EU's antitrust case against Google?

The Commission handed Google a €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion) fine in 2017. It was the first of three antitrust penalties, totaling more than €8 billion, that the EU's executive branch has handed Google in recent years.

Google complied with the decision and changed the way its shopping services worked but appealed the fine. The company argued that the fine was "wrong on the law, the facts, and the economics."

"Our approach has worked successfully for more than three years, generating billions of clicks for more than 700 comparison shopping services,'' Google said.

However, the EU General Court rejected that appeal on Wednesday.

"The [court] thus rules that, in reality, Google favors its own comparison shopping service over competing services, rather than a better result over another result," it said in a press release.

The Commission began proceedings in the case in November 2010, following several complaints made by European and US competitors. The decision can still be appealed at the European Court of Justice, the bloc's highest court.

UK blocks billion-pound lawsuit

Meanwhile, the UK Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked a planned 3.2 billion pound ($4.3 billion) British class action suit against Google over allegations that the company had unlawfully tracked the personal information of millions of iPhone users. 

The country's top judges unanimously granted an appeal against the country's first such data privacy case, in a move that challenges a string of similar claims against other similar companies such as Facebook and TikTok.

Google said the claim was related to events that took place a decade ago and were addressed at the time.

"People want to know that they are safe and secure online, which is why for years we've focused on building products and infrastructure that respect and protect people's privacy," a Google spokesperson said.

Richard Lloyd, a consumer rights activist, alleged that Google secretly took more than 5 million Apple iPhone users' personal data between 2011 and 2012 by bypassing default privacy settings on the Safari browser to
track internet browsing histories.

The history of the EU vs. Big Tech

The antitrust ruling comes amid a slew of efforts to rein in major US tech companies, including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. The companies, collectively dubbed GAFAM, have been accused of dodging taxes, stifling competition, stealing media content and threatening democracy by spreading fake news.

In 2013, the EU fined Microsoft €561 million for imposing its browser Internet Explorer on users of Windows 7. Meanwhile, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have also been the targets of EU probes for possible violations of competition rules, and EU courts have ruled to hike fines for tech firms that break competition rules.

EU launches antitrust probe of Google

lc/rt (dpa, AFP)

Correction: This article was updated on November 11, 2021, to reflect that Internet Explorer is a browser, and not a search engine.