Mercury (Hobart)

Google’s in search of legal victory


GOOGLE and the EU are facing off in court as the search engine giant enters a new phase of a legal saga that began a decade ago.

The Silicon Valley juggernaut is appealing a $A2.6 billion fine from 2017 that was the first in a series of major penalties from the European Commission, the EU’s powerful anti-trust regulator.

Google has paid the fine and changed its behaviour, but the company will strongly condemn the decision in the EU’s General Court as ill-founded and unfair.

“We’re appealing the European Commission’s 2017 Google Shopping decision because it is wrong on the law, the facts, and the economics,” the company said in an email.

“Shopping ads have always helped people find the products they are looking for quickly and easily, and helped merchants to reach potential customers.”

The case opens what will certainly be a long season of court dates for Google and the EU, with two other fine decisions also under appeal at the Luxembourg-based court.

The EU and Google have been locked in battle since 2010, when the commission first looked into accusation­s that the search engine was squeezing rivals from results in order to promote ads and Google Shopping, a price comparison service.

For several years Brussels and the US giant sought a negotiated settlement, but the EU abruptly reversed course in 2014 after the interventi­on of member states and the arrival of Margrethe Vestager as EU competitio­n chief.

Ms Vestager, a former Danish finance minister, quickly became known for her relentless pursuit of US tech giants that drew attention worldwide.

She has since racked up a total of $A13 billion in fines against Google and has slapped Apple with a massive tax bill that boss Tim Cook called “political crap”.

The appeal hearing is to last three days, with a decision not expected for a year. The case can then go to the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice.

The EU’s case mirrors similar litigation against Microsoft that ran through most of the 1990s and early 2000s and saw the company fined about $A2.2 billion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia