EU fines Google record high 2.4 bln euros in anti-trust case
BRUSSELSThe European Union hit Google with a record 2.4-billion-euro anti-trust fine on June 27 for favoring its own shopping service, in a fresh assault on a U.S. tech giant that risks the wrath of President Donald Trump.
Hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager said Google had “abused its market dominance” as the world’s most popular search engine to give illegal advantage to its Google Shopping service.
“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate,” Denmark’s Vestager told a news conference, as quoted by AFP.
“And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”
Google now has 90 days to “end this conduct” or face further penalty payments, Vestager said.
The fine broke the previous EU record for a monopoly case against US chipmaker Intel of 1.06 billion euros in 2009.
Google said that it “respectfully” disagreed with the EU decision, which followed a seven-year investigation, and was considering an appeal.
“We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case,” Kent Walker, the company’s senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement, as quoted by AFP.
Google insisted that it “shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.”
‘A game changer decision’
“This decision is a game-changer. The Commission confirmed that consumers do not see what is most relevant for them on the world’s most used search engine but rather what is best for Google,” said Monique Goyens, director general of EU consumer group BEUC, as quoted by Reuters.
Thomas Vinje, legal counsel to FairSearch, welcomed the Commission’s findings and urged it to act on Google’s Android mobile operating system following its 2013 complaint that Google restricted competition in software running on mobile devices.
The decision comes less than a year after Vestager shocked Washington and the world with an order that iPhone manufacturer Apple repay 13 billion euros in back taxes in Ireland.
Crucially for Google, Brussels has demanded that the U.S. tech giant change the business model for Google Shopping to meet the EU’s concerns.
Brussels accuses Google of giving its own online service, Google Shopping, too much priority in search results to the detriment of other price comparison services, such as TripAdvisor and Expedia.
The case, launched in 2010, is one of three against Google and of several against blockbuster US companies.
The cases have stoked tensions with Washington and could now face the wrath of Trump, the real estate tycoon who won office on his “America First” slogan.