Google Faces Record-Breaking £2.1bn EU Fine For Manipulating Search Results

Google has been hit with a record-breaking fine of 2.4 billion euros (£2.1bn) by the European  Commission for abusing its monopoly on Internet searches within the European Union.

The massive fine comes at the culmination of seven years of investigation and probing by the EC which ruled that Google had broken EU law on competition by exploiting its search engine results to promote its own shopping service in a a fashion that was to the detriment of other price comparison sites.

Alongside the fine Google has also been ordered by the EC to end its anit-competative practices within 90 days of face a further fine. The current fine, which Google may appeal, is the largest it has ever faced and the largest ever handed out by the EU.

Google monopoly menace

“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,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s Competition Commissioner.

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” she added. “It has denied other companies the chance to compete on their merits and to innovate, and most importantly it has denied European consumers the benefits of competition, genuine choice and innovation.”

The result of Google’s search practices, according to the EC’s investigation, led Google’s comparison shopping service receiving significant hikes in traffic i the UK, Germany, France and Spain and other major EU nations, while traffic to rival services dropped significantly, essentially allowing Google to create a from of monopoly for itself.

Naturally, Google does not believe the EC’s investigation results and the fine it has been saddled with are fair.

“We believe the European Commission’s online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections,” said Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel.

“While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches.

“We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay.”

As such, an appeal could very much be on Google’s agenda.

“Given the evidence, 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,” noted Walker.

Google is no stranger to tackling antitrust woes, as it recently came to a settlement with Russia over the use of default search engines in Android devices.

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Roland Moore-Colyer

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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