In a recent development, Google faced a setback in the European court. The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has released an opinion in favor of upholding the €2.4 billion fine imposed by Brussels for anticompetitive practices in the price comparison market, a dispute that dates back nearly 15 years.

Google’s Anticompetitive Behavior

The European Commission, responsible for competition enforcement in the EU, had penalized Google in June 2017 for abusing its dominant position in online search. The tech giant was accused of favoring its own price comparison service, Google Shopping, by making its competitors nearly invisible to consumers.

Google has since been required to adjust its search results display to comply with European regulations.

Advocate General’s Opinion

Advocate General Juliane Kokott of the CJEU proposed on Thursday to « confirm the €2.4 billion fine. » She asserted that « Google had used its dominant position » in search engines « to promote its own product comparison service, » echoing the Commission’s findings and the earlier court ruling.

While non-binding, such opinions are typically followed by the judges. However, a final decision from the Luxembourg-based Court is still several months away.

Google’s Response

« We will review the Advocate General’s opinion and await the final decision of the Court (…) and we will continue to work constructively with the European Commission, » a Google spokesperson stated on Thursday.

The company had previously lost the initial round of this legal saga in November 2021 when the EU Court, following a complaint by Google, upheld the €2.4 billion fine.

Google’s Ongoing Legal Battles

This case originated in 2010 with Brussels launching an investigation based on complaints from Google Shopping competitors. It is just one of several major disputes between Brussels and the California-based tech giant, which holds the record for the three largest fines ever imposed by the European executive for anticompetitive practices, totaling over €8 billion.

The €2.4 billion fine related to Google Shopping was a record amount when it was initially imposed.

It was surpassed in 2018 by a €4.3 billion fine concerning the Android mobile operating system. Google also faced a €1.5 billion fine in 2019 for infractions related to its AdSense advertising platform.

Continued Scrutiny

Google is also under suspicion by the European Commission for abusing its dominant position in display advertising technology. Following an investigation opened in 2021, Brussels may decide to levy another substantial fine and potentially require the company to divest its activities in this sector.

In response to the slow progress of investigations and legal challenges, the EU has introduced new legislation on digital markets (Digital Markets Act), aiming to bring the industry giants under tighter regulation.

Starting in March, this legislation will impose new obligations, prohibitions, and dissuasive penalties on five American tech companies, including :

  • Alphabet, Google’s parent company,
  • as well as Amazon,
  • Apple,
  • Meta,
  • Microsoft,
  • and Chinese-owned ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok.