Google has been hit with a lawsuit worth approximately €2.1 billion for, once again, meddling with data and controlling sales across Europe.
A leading price comparison company in the Nordics and UK, PriceRunner, announced on Monday, February 7, that it was suing Alphabet-owned search giant Google for manipulating search results. PriceRunner filed the lawsuit in Sweden, demanding compensation from Google to resolve profit losses in the country (as well as in the UK and Denmark) over the last decade and longer.
Google did (not) learn the lesson
In November 2021, Google lost an appeal against the over €2.4 billion fine it received four years earlier for illegally making a profit by favoring its own comparison shopping service over smaller competing services in Europe.
They are still abusing the market to a very high extent and haven't changed basically anything...
In the meantime, Google claims that: "The changes we made to shopping ads back in 2017 are working successfully", and the reason PriceRunner could not see these improvements is that it chose not to use shopping ads on Google. Its spokesperson added the company is ready to defend the lawsuit in court. We don't doubt this, but let's not forget that the tech giant successfully avoided paying a €3 billion fine for historic user tracking last year.
Prepared for the long battle
Mikael Lindahl is optimistic about the case and reports that PriceRunner is well-prepared for the lawsuit, even if it persists for many years. According to his statement, the company has secured funds worth tens of millions of euros in external financing, and even has a contingency plan in case PriceRunner didn’t win the case right away.
PriceRunner's parent company, Klarna, reminds European consumers have been denied real choice in shopping services for many years and this is one step to ensuring this ends now
Klarna agreed to buy PriceRunner from an investment firm called Creades for approximately €109 million in November – the deal should close in the first quarter of 2022. Their spokeswoman, Aoife Houlihan, confirmed Klarna was "aware and supportive of this suit."
It is fundamental that all tech companies no matter where they operate, compete on the basis of their own merit with the best product and service and then gain consumers' trust.
PriceRunner is known as the largest independent price comparison service in the Nordic region. It boasts over 3.7 million products, across 22,500 stores, in over 25 different countries. On the flip side, there’s Google, one of the world’s most enduringly popular search engines, with over 140 hundred employees worldwide.
Google learned how to fend off significant lawsuits over the years, however, it lost a strikingly similar case only last year, to Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. The lawsuit came in 2017 when Google was accused of using its own price comparison service to gain an advantage over less known European competitors. After years of investigations, rulings, and appeals, Google finally lost the case in November 2021 (as mentioned earlier).
The similarity has surely made PriceRunner more confident in its decision to pursue a lawsuit, but it’s still hard to tell which turn this episode might take. We’ll keep you in the loop as the case proceeds.