European Commission fines Google $2.7 bn over Shopping results


— 5:00 PM on June 27, 2017

After a long-running investigation, the European Comission is slapping Google with its biggest antitrust-related fine to date. The EC's allegations pertain to years of anti-competitive practices regarding Google search results pointing to the company's own Shopping service to the detriment of competitors' services. Far outstripping the previous record, Google has to pay €2.42 bn ($2.74 billion) to the EU for pointing shoppers at its own shopping platform.

On top of the huge fine, the EC demands that Google change its search algorithm so that competing services are fairly displayed. If the company fails to comply within 90 days, it'll be looking at a daily penalty equal to 5% of parent company Alphabet's average daily worldwide earnings. According to the BBC, that amounts to about $14 million per day.

"What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules," said antitrust official Margrethe Vestager. "It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation." Google, as you would expect, is looking to appeal the result. "We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today," a Google spokesperson said. "We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case."

As Ars Technica notes, this investigation has been going on for some time. The original accusation came in 2009 from a UK site called Foundem, and the commission confirmed in 2010 that it was investigating the situation. The commission then laid out its objections in early 2015 and spent the time since then deciding how to punish the company for its activity. In other words, today's fine wasn't a split-second decision.

The fine related to Google Shopping is a big one, but as the BBC notes, the European Commission has two separate cases still going against Google. The first concerns the company prioritizing its own apps over others' on Android devices, while the second suggests the company took measures to suppress competitive ads from appearing on websites with Google search boxes.

For comparison, the EU's next biggest fine was handed to Intel in 2008 for €1.06 bn. The company was accused of offering discounts to computer makers for avoiding competitors' products. Microsoft's infamous browser settlement started at €899 million in 2008, but the company was hit with another €561 million fine later on for failing to fully comply with the EC's decision.

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