Google claimed the European Commission’s tough antitrust enforcement is a threat to internet innovation on day one of its courtroom fight against a 2.4 billion-euro ($2.6 billion) fine for allegedly thwarting smaller shopping-search rivals.
“If Google would have faced the commission’s decision in 2008, Google would have had no other option but to abandon its innovative technologies and its improved designs,” Thomas Graf, a lawyer for the search giant, told a five-judge panel of the EU General Court in Luxembourg on the first of three days of hearings.
The court battle over the EU’s 2017 decision also sets the stage for Google’s pending appeals over separate fines by the Brussels regulator for unfairly linking apps to Android software and for thwarting advertising rivals. The company also risks early-stage antitrust scrutiny into local search, jobs and vacation rentals services.
The judges’ ruling — expected in the coming months — would mark the end of another chapter in the almost decade long antitrust battle between Google and the European Commission, which accused the company of using its vast market power to crush competition when users search for products online.
The commission’s path to punishing Google was circuitous. The Alphabet Inc unit argued that tiny comparison-shopping services didn’t rank high in search because they provided poor quality, and that competition was only “a click away.”
Regulators appeared to waver by seeking a settlement where Google would make changes to search display to end the probe without fines. That sparked fury from European publishers and politicians.