Google logo with Euro coins

EU imposes €2.42 billion fine on Google for breach of antitrust rules

Image credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

European antitrust regulators are imposing a record-breaking fine of €2.42 billion on Google. The company has been found guilty of manipulating its search engine results to promote its own shopping service over rivals.

The fine is more than double the previous record for breach of antitrust rules; a €1.06 billion fine imposed on Intel in 2014. Companies found guilty of breaking these rules may be fined up to 10 per cent their global turnover.

Google Shopping, the tech giant’s shopping service, allows consumers to compare products and prices online, using information gathered from online retailers. American and European rivals lodged a complaint about this service, arguing that Google was promoting its own service in its search engine results.

Following a seven-year investigation, Google has now been found guilty of breaking antitrust rules by “systematically” giving prominence to its own service and demoting rival services. As a result, Google Shopping is “much more visible to consumers” than rival services, the regulator concluded.

“Google has come up with many innovative products and service that have made a difference to our lives. That’s a good thing,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, in a press statement.

“But Google’s strategy for its comparison shopping service wasn’t just about attracting customers by making its product better than those of its rivals. Instead, Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results, and demoting those of competitors.”

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits [sic] and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”

The Commission gave Google 90 days to end its activities, or else it will face fines of up to five per cent the average daily turnover of Alphabet, its parent company, every day.

“We continue to engage constructively with the European Commission and we believe strongly that our innovations in online shopping have been good for shoppers, retails and competition,” Google stated. The tech giant has argued that it packages its search results to make it easier for consumers to find what they are looking for.

Google has said that it may appeal. It has argued that regulators have ignored competition from its major rivals, Amazon and eBay.

In April 2015, the EU competition authority charged Google with distorting search engine results to favour its own shopping service over rivals.

The US Federal Trade Commission settled a search engine results case with Google in 2013 by requiring the search engine to stop “scraping” reviews and other information from rival websites for products on their own shopping service.

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