The European Commission has imposed a fine totalling 2.42 billion euros on the internet giant Google for violating antitrust law.
The European Commission came to the conclusion that the internet company was abusing its dominant market position as a search engine operator. Specifically, the company was said to have favoured its own price comparison service in relation to those of competitors. The former was positioned right at the top of search results, whereas competitors’ services appeared much further down when searching for online shopping deals and accordingly were clicked on less often. This was said to negatively impact competition in the price comparison markets.
In the Commission’s press statement from June 27, 2017, it stated that Google had thus secured an unlawful advantage for its price comparison service and violated EU cartel regulations, as this behaviour deprived competitors of the chance to win over consumers with the quality of their service. Furthermore, European consumers were being deprived of the chance to be able to make a proper choice between the various services. Google now has 90 days in which to refrain from this behaviour and apply the principle of equal treatment to rival price comparison services and its own service. Failing this, the company will be faced with the prospect of high penalty payments. Aggrieved competitors will also be able to submit damages claims under civil law following the European Commission’s decision. Notwithstanding this, the US firm has already announced that it may wish to go before the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Whether it be abuse of a dominant market position, illegal pricing arrnagments or other violations of antitrust law, these infringements can lead to heavy fines, something which we at the law firm GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte note those involved in the truck cartel, for instance, now know all too well. That being said, antitrust law not only concerns the big sensational cases. Violations of antitrust law can occur unintentionally and unknowingly, e.g. due to individual contractual clauses violating existing laws. Severe penalties are equally possible in these cases.
For this reason, it is advisable to have agreements reviewed by experienced lawyers with a view to their implications from the perspective of antitrust law. Appropriate legal expertise is also crucial if violations of antitrust law or competition law have already occurred and claims need to be either fended off or enforced.
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