Attorneys for Google, seeking to overturn $9 billion in EU antitrust fines, argued in a European court Wednesday that the tech giant should not be forced to prop up its competitors in the course of promoting facets of its own business.
“Competition law does not require Google to hold back innovation or compromise its quality to accommodate rivals. Otherwise, competition would be restricted, and innovation would be stifled,” said attorney Thomas Graf, representing the company during the first day of a three-day hearing before the General Court in Luxembourg.
“The decision’s case is, at its core, that Google should not have introduced these innovations, unless it gave competing CSSs (comparison shopping services) the same access,” Graf said, according to multiple media reports.
Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company) began legal arguments in an appeal of a 2017 fine for €2.42 billion (U.S. $2.75 billion) levied by the European Commission. The Commission alleged the company abused its dominant position by promoting its own CSS in its search results while demoting those of competitors.
The Commission has since levied two additional fines: in 2018, a €4.34 billion (U.S. $4.93 billion) fine for using its Android mobile operating system and mobile apps and services to further cement the dominance of its own search engine; and last year, a fine for €1.49 billion (U.S. $1.69 billion) for blocking rival online search advertisers from getting a foothold in the market.
The penalties amount to €8.25 billion (U.S. $9.36 billion) in total in less than two years.
Although a decision on the 2017 fine is not expected until next year, the company’s arguments in that case are likely to underpin its defense against all three fines. Alphabet will argue it does not have a special responsibility to avoid favoring its own in-house products and services over those offered by competitors.
Commission lawyer Nicholas Khan countered that the tech giant used its dominance to give itself an advantage in other markets.
“What Google engaged in was leveraging conduct of the type found to be abusive many times under EU competition law. Conceptually, there is nothing esoteric about this case,” he told the judges, according to media reports.
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