EU legal opinion deals blow to Google on 2.4-bn-euro fine

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Brussels, Jan 11 (AFP/APP):Google suffered a legal blow at the European Court of Justice on Thursday when the body's adviser recommended that a 2.4-billion-euro ($2.6-billion) fine levied on it for anti-competitive practices be upheld.
              Although such opinions are not binding, they do carry weight and are often followed by EU judges in their rulings.
              In this case, the opinion will feed into a legal battle Google has been waging to overturn the fine the European Commission hit it with in 2017.
              The commission determined that Google abused its dominant position by favouring its own Google Shopping service in results from its ubiquitous search engine. 
              Google, owned by US tech titan Alphabet, was forced to change how it displays search results.
              At the time the fine was a record. But it was overtaken in 2018 by a 4.3-billion-euro penalty Brussels levied on Google for putting restrictions on Android smartphones to boost its internet search business.
              Google lost a first round in its challenge over the Google Shopping case when the lower EU General Court in 2021 found against it and upheld the commission's penalty. 
              However, that court did dismiss part of the commission's case by saying it had not proven that there were anti-competitive effects in the search engine market.
              Google then mounted an appeal to the higher EU Court of Justice to try to get the lower court's decision set aside.
              In her opinion, Advocate General Juliane Kokott recommended the Court of Justice's judges "dismiss the appeal and thus confirm the fine imposed on Google".
              The adviser said Google's favouritism for its own service over rivals' constituted "an independent form of abuse" if it gained a competitive advantage, even a potential one.