Commission slaps record €2.4 bln anti-trust fine on Google

The European Commission's proposal contained a controversial "Google tax" to charge internet companies for linking to online news. [Spencer E Holtaway/Flickr]

The European Commission fined Google a record-high €2.42 billion on Tuesday (27 June) for breaching EU antitrust rules by using its dominant market position to promote its own comparison shopping service at the expense of rivals.

After a seven-year probe, the Commission concluded Google had abused its market dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, its comparison shopping service.

The company must now end the conduct within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, the Commission said in a statement.

Commission to open probe into tech companies' algorithms next year

The European Commission is considering actions to make internet firms share details about the algorithms they use to present information like news or user posts.

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. 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,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

Addressing a press conference after the Commission’s decision was published, Vestager said there were no other ongoing investigation’s into Google’s behaviour, but stressed the Internet giant would remain under close scrutiny now that its market dominance had been established.

“We have no other official cases. We are still looking into this, but now we’ll do that on the basis of finding Google to be the dominant company,” the Commissioner said.

She denied claims that the Commission had been biased against US companies and voiced conviction that there would be no retaliation from the US market authorities.

“We have heard allegations of being biased against US companies. I’ve been going through statistics on antitrust, merger control, and I can find no facts to support any kind of bias.”

Ireland set out arguments against EU in Apple tax ruling

Ireland set out its arguments on Monday (19 December) against a European Commission ruling that tech firm Apple should pay billions in back-taxes to Dublin, claiming the EU executive arm has interfered in state sovereignty.

“Second, one of the reasons why our working relations with the US authorities have been so good is that it’s based on the rule of law. This is a case based on facts, on case practice.
That also characterises the work of our US colleagues.”

In a blog post entitled The European Commission decision on online shopping: the other side of the story, Google’s senior vice-president, Kent Walker, said “we respectfully disagree with the conclusion announced today”. He added that the tech giant would review the case and consider whether or not to appeal.

Further Reading

EU dithering on Google probe is costing jobs

The EU’s antitrust case against Google should be widened to cover the local search market. Lack of competition in this domain harms consumers, EU companies and the Digital Single Market, writes Kostas Rossoglou.

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