Google leaves court bruised, not broken

By Simon Van Dorpe, Politico

It has been a good three days in court for the EU’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager.

Google had appealed one of her biggest calls — the 2017 decision to fine the company €2.42 billion for unduly favoring its own shopping comparison service.

At no point during the three-day hearing at the EU General Court in Luxembourg was the Commission’s position fundamentally threatened — unlike Google’s.

If the case goes Vestager’s way, it will strengthen her hand to take a tougher approach not only toward Google’s other specialized search services, including flights and restaurants, but also on similar ventures by other tech giants, such as Facebook’s Marketplace or Apple Music. It would also pave the way for damages cases as Google’s crushed rivals will seek compensation.

Conversely, the EU has a big problem if the judges in Luxembourg, who serve as the only check on the unrivaled powers of the EU’s antitrust czar, decide that she had been too bold. A victory for Google would be a major setback for Vestager’s Brussels reign, potentially driving her to make more use of her new powers to initiate legislation, rather than focus on antitrust cases.

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