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Google loses key court fight over EU antitrust shopping fine

The $2.8 billion fine has merit, a court in Luxembourg rules.

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Google's fight to have a fine overturned is not going to plan.
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Google on Wednesday lost a crucial battle in its fight to have a multibillion-dollar antitrust fine overturned in Europe . 

Back in 2017, regulators slapped Google with a 2.42 billion euro ($2.8 billion) fine for favoring its own shopping services in its search results over those of rivals. Google appealed the fine, but the EU General Court in Luxembourg has now ruled to uphold the decision.

"By favouring its own comparison shopping service on its general results pages through more favourable display and positioning, while relegating the results from competing comparison services in those pages by means of ranking algorithms, Google departed from competition on the merits," the court said in the ruling.

The fine is one of several that the EU's Competition Commission has handed out to Google over the past few years for abusing its dominant position in Europe. At the time it was announced in 2017, it was the largest penalty handed out by the Commission and was twice as big as predicted. It retained this title until the Commission fined Google over $5 billion the following year for Android abuses.

The court's decision this week is a win for Europe as it seeks to more closely regulate tech companies -- including US tech giants that operate within the region. It arrives during a greater global effort to ensure that tech companies are held accountable, pay their fair share of taxes and don't violate competition or privacy laws.

Google cast the ruling as a narrow one as it pointed to the benefits that shopping ads bring to consumers and merchants online.

"This judgement relates to a very specific set of facts and while we will review it closely, we made changes back in 2017 to comply with the European Commission's decision," said a spokesman for Google in a statement on Wednesday. "Our approach has worked successfully for more than three years, generating billions of clicks for more than 700 comparison shopping services."