Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Google fined record €2.4b by European Union in anti-trust case

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager holds a news conference at the EU Commission's headquarters in Brussels Belgium Google fined record €2.4b by European Union in anti-trust case
Nellie Chapman | 29 June, 2017, 09:05

In both cases, the commission has already reached a preliminary finding that Google has abused its dominant position to give itself an illegal advantage over its competitors.

Seven large United States tech companies had written to the EU's antitrust watchdog urging it to go ahead with what ended up being a record fine on the world's most-used search engine for obstructing competition and "stifling innovation".

The European Commission, which polices EU competition rules, alleges Google elevates its shopping service even when other options might have better deals.

"Google's market dominance has given the company power to decide the fate of all but the biggest online service providers - in other words almost every company", said Fairsearch, a lobby of complainants, in a statement.

A consumer using the firm's online search engine now sees results from Google Shopping promoted above the most relevant search results.

Other antitrust experts believe the fine levied on Google means European regulators are more likely to rein in other USA technology companies such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Netflix as they win over more European consumers at the expense of homegrown companies.

Google said it "respectfully" disagreed with the European Union decision, and was considering an appeal. Google has the right to appeal to the EU's top courts, and the commission said it plans to monitor Google's reaction to the order "for a number of years".

For years European Union authorities have been crafting their case against Google, claiming the search engine giant favours its own search results over those of other websites.

The case, launched in 2010, is one of three against Google and of several against blockbuster USA companies including Starbucks (Hanover: SRB.HA - news), Apple, Amazon and McDonalds. A few weeks ago, analysts were expecting that the tech firm would be fined an amount greater than the $1.4 billion that Intel had to pay for a similar case.

Vestager said in a statement that Google had "denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. With this decision, the commission is saying that Google has broken the law and now needs to stop its abuse and allow competition back into the marketplace", said Richard Stables, the Kelkoo's CEO. ♦ Google is fighting on at least two other fronts, including for its Android mobile software and the AdSense online advertisement service.

The decision is the first of a series of competition rulings that Google faces from the European Commission, which has not shrunk from taking on USA tech giants such as Alphabet, which has annual revenues of $90 billion and a market value of $665 billion.