News is just in that EU antitrust regulators imposed a record 2.42 billion EUR ($2.7 billion) fine on Google for anti-competitive practices in the shopping comparison market. After a seven-year investigation, the judgement states Google abused its dominant market position by illegally favoring its own Google Shopping service, at the detriment of consumers and rivals.
The target of today’s case is Google Shopping, a price comparison feature built into the company’s main search engine. The commission’s antitrust filing states that Google showed users results from Google Shopping “irrespective of [their] merits,” depriving rival price comparison sites of traffic. As part of today’s decision, Google will have to change how its search algorithm ranks websites — a major imposition that the company will not take lightly. If it does not end its current conduct, says the EU, it will face penalties of up to five percent of its average daily turnover.
In a press statement, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager praised Google for coming up with “many innovative products and services that have made a difference to our lives.” But, she added, the company also “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,” said 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 will most likely appeal the decision and a final decision is probably still many years away. As I reported yesterday, the EU's fight against Intel is still ongoing. The chip maker got hit by a 1.06 billion EUR fine in 2009 and yesterday news emerged that a final judgement from the EU's highest court will likely arrive in 2018.