In a major setback to Google, the European Union's General Court on Wednesday upheld an earlier ruling by the European Commission that imposed a $2.8 billion fine on the search engine giant for breaking anti-trust law.
The General Court dismissed Google's action against the decision of the Commission, finding that Google abused its dominant position by favouring its own comparison shopping service over competing comparison shopping services.
In a 2017 ruling, the European Commission had said that Google abused its dominant position on the market for online general search services in 13 countries in the European Economic Area, by favouring its own comparison shopping service, a specialised search service, over competing comparison shopping services.
The Commission had imposed a $2.8 billion fine on Google.
"The General Court finds that 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 court said in a statement.
Google and its parent company Alphabet will now appeal against the decision to the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The General Court said it recognises the anti-competitive nature of the practice at issue.
It also noted that, given the universal vocation of Google's general search engine which is designed to index results containing any possible content, the promotion on Google's results pages of only one type of specialised result, namely its own, involves a certain form of abnormality.
"The General Court considers that the present case relates to the conditions of supply by Google of its general search service by means of access to general results pages for competing comparison shopping services," it noted.
Lastly, the General Court found that Google's differentiated treatment is based on the origin of the results, that is, whether they come from its own comparison shopping service or from competing services.
The court ruled that in reality, Google favours its own comparison shopping service over competing services, rather than a better result over another result.
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