Google Shopping: A shot in the arm for the EC’ s enforcement effort, but how much will it matter?

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The judgment issued by the EU General Court (“the Court”) on 10 November 2021, dismissing Google’s appeal of the EC’s 2017 decision Google Search (Shopping) (Case AT.39740), is a milestone and a lifeline for DG Competition. Without this endorsement, the whole edi3ce of Art 102 enforcement (the key European unilateral conduct tool) in the digital space would have been critically undermined. The Court clari3es and even strengthens some of the reasoning in the EC decision, but more importantly it hands the EC a major political victory, appearing to vindicate its approach and record at a time when questions have been raised globally about what has really been achieved by Europe’s antitrust exertions. Having preened itself with being an early starter in the enforcement stakes – while US antitrust had been covered in permafrost since the Microsoft case in 2000 – Europe’s effort had been appearing increasingly hollow of late because in the end it had nothing to show: a handful of decisions against Google, all under lengthy appeal; heavily negotiated remedies on Google’s terms with no impact on the ground; cases against Apple and Amazon taking years to move forward; nothing to show on Facebook.