Web giant found to have abused its dominant position by illegally favouring its Shopping comparison service.
Google on Tuesday was fined €2.42 billion by the European Commission for abusing its dominant position in the online search market to favour its comparison shopping service, Google Shopping.
Google said it is considering an appeal.
According to the EU’s antitrust watchdog, from 2008, the Web giant systematically gave prominent placement to Google Shopping in Google search results, and included criteria in its generic search algorithms that demoted results from rival comparison shopping services, stifling competition.
"What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate," said the EC’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. "Most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation."
Google has been given 90 days to cease its illegal conduct and implement measures that give equal treatment to competing comparison shopping services. If it doesn’t mend its ways within the time allowed, it could be fined 5% of its average daily turnover.
However, Google seems disinclined to comply.
"We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today," said Kent Walker, SVP and general counsel at Google, in a statement emailed to Total Telecom. "We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal."
In a separate blog post, Walker argued that the EC needs to look beyond Google Shopping when it considers why some comparison shopping services do better than others.
"We think it should consider the many sites that have grown in this period – including platforms like Amazon and eBay," he said. "Amazon is a formidable competitor and has become the first port of call for product searches. And as Amazon has grown, it’s natural that some comparison services have proven less popular than others. We compete with Amazon and other sites for shopping-related searches by showing ever more useful product information."
The EU began investigating Google’s search practices in 2010 after several companies accused it of unfairly favouring its own services in its search results over those of its rivals. In March 2013, it concluded that some of Google’s business practices violated European antitrust rules.
Google made various concessions in a bid to reach a settlement but to no avail: in April 2015, Brussels sent it a Statement of Objections (SO) formally accusing it of violating antitrust rules.