The European Commission (EC) has fined Google a record-breaking €2.42 billion for antitrust violations concerning the Google Shopping search comparison service.
The ruling also orders Google to end its anti-competitive practices within 90 days or face a further penalty.
According to The Telegraph, Google argues its online shopping services has been “good for consumers and retailers, and says it is not a monopoly player in online shopping. It points to giants such as Amazon and eBay as alternative choices that have made internet shopping more competitive.”
However, if it fails to change the way it operates its Shopping service within the three-month deadline, it could be forced to pay the equivalent of 5% of the average worldwide daily earnings of its parent company Alphabet.
It also indicates that the EU is cracking down on misconduct and will send a message of zero tolerance to other players.
It’s the biggest fine ever handed to a single company in an EU antitrust case, beating a nearly €1.1bn penalty that US chipmaker Intel was forced to pay back in 2009.
According to The Guardian, this case will set far-reaching precedents if Google or others have also been privileging their products in areas such as travel and hotels.
If so, consumer-friendly action by regulators should be applauded. The EC says dominance in new fields should be earned on merit, not by squeezing out rivals.
Google Shopping displays images and prices of relevant products’ alongside the names of shops they are available from, as well as review scores, if available. The details are labelled as ‘sponsored,’ reflecting the fact that, unlike normal search results, they only include items that sellers have paid to appear.
However it’s not the first time the European Commission has penalised a US tech giant for ‘bad behaviour.’
Earlier this year, Facebook was fined 110 million euros for giving misleading statements during the company’s $19 billion acquisition of the internet messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.
Over the past two decades, the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft have become targets of long antitrust investigations by the European authorities.
This has often led to claims by tech executives that the region has an anti-American bias, says The New York Times, accusations that European policy makers deny.