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Google appeals record 2.4 billion antitrust fine levied by EU

12 September 2017

Google yesterday appealed the record 2.4 billion antitrust fine the EU slapped it with in June over allegations the company promoted its own price comparison services over competitors'. The fine, the largest antitrust penalty in the history of the EC, was levied on the basis of the EU's findings following a seven-year investigation into the company's alleged anticompetitive search behaviour.

Google was given time up to 28 September to alter its practices.

According to commentators, Google's response with only a few weeks to go comes as expected. However, the Luxembourg-based general court, the second-highest judicial body in Europe, may not issue a ruling on the appeal for several years. Also a decision from the EU's Court of Justice last week is seen as supporting Google's position. The court sent back a $1.3 billion antitrust fine against Intel to a lower court, which could open up the possibility of the fine being lowered or erased.

According to the commission, Google's manipulation of search results to promote its own price comparison shopping service within its search engine led to as much as a 45-fold boost in traffic in the UK alone. ''What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,'' commissioner Margrethe Vestager said at the time. ''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.'' Google disputed the findings, saying its actions did not adversely affect competition in the online shopping market in Europe.

A spokesman of the EU competition regulator said it will defend its decision in court.

Lobby group FairSearch, whose members include Google rivals, including UK shopping comparison site Foundem and US travel site TripAdvisor said the EU decision was sound.

''The Commission's decision stands on firm ground, both legally and factually, and we expect the Commission to win on appeal,'' Reuters reported FairSearch lawyer Thomas Vinje as saying.

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