Google isn’t ready to accept a record fine levied against it by the European Commission over its alleged search-result favoritism.
A spokeswoman for the search engine confirmed that it’s filed a legal appeal of the commission’s 2.4 billion euro fine, the largest antitrust fine in EU history, after the commission’s antitrust division completed a nearly seven-year-long investigation into Google’s comparative pricing search tool.
Google declined to comment further on the appeal.
The appeal has to be filed with the European’s Union’s General Court in Luxembourg, but case documents are not yet available.
And the process is likely to drag on for years, given the general court’s relative scarcity of appeals proceedings and the prospect of any EU member state where Google operates intervening in the proceeding.
The General Court last week ordered the reexamination of a 1.06 billion-euro fine levied against Intel over allegedly anticompetitive control of the EU’s computer processor market, and while that ruling could give Google some hope for a positive outcome in this case, it took eight years for the appeal to be decided.
Thomas Vinje, an attorney for FairSearch, a Brussels lobbying group for non-Google search engines, also noted that the differences between Intel’s case and that of Google mean an affirmation of the commission’s decision is most likely.
“Both before and after the Intel judgment, the commission needs only to prove that conduct has a ‘capability’ to foreclose competition,” Vinje wrote in a statement. “And the commission applied precisely this foreclosure standard in its comparison shopping decision. There is nothing in the Intel judgment upon which Google could rely that it could not already have relied upon in the court’s previous jurisprudence.”
The commission’s lengthy investigation purportedly showed that Google has for many years favored searched-for products available through companies or web sites that operate within Google’s own comparable search platform, regardless of price.
Google at the time of the fine seemed already prepared to appeal the decision. Senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker noted that the commission focused heavily on the placement of paid advertisers and said he “respectfully disagrees” with the decision.
The appeal seems to be more of a move to protect future dealings than one demanded by financials, as Google is perfectly able to handle the fine with $92 billion in cash and marketable assets available.
But advertising is the company’s most lucrative business, accounting for $22.67 billion in revenue for the second quarter alone.
Google is already being forced to comply with the commission’s demand that it give “equal treatment to rival comparison services” in its European search results by applying the same methods to the search algorithm of other sites as its does its own, as well as begin paying the fine.
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