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Thursday 27 July 2017

Google fined record €2.4bn by EU for search 'abuse'

EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Google had denied other companies a chance to compete by promoting its own comparison shopping service. Photo: Getty Images
EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Google had denied other companies a chance to compete by promoting its own comparison shopping service. Photo: Getty Images
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The European Commission has fined Google €2.4bn for abuse of its dominant position as a search engine in giving its own shopping comparison service an unfair boost.

The penalty is the biggest-ever fine handed down by Brussels on a business in a competition case.

Under the ruling, Google has 90 days to change its practices or face a fine of up to 5pc of global daily turnover.

"Google's strategy for its comparison shopping service wasn't just about attracting customers," said EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

"It wasn't just about making its product better than those of its rivals. Instead, Google has abused its market dominance as a search engine."

Google's chief counsel, Kent Walker, said that the search giant would consider appealing the decision. He said that the Commission is behind the times on technology adoption.

"We believe the European Commission's online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections," he said.

"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."

The Commission found that Google, with a market share in searches of over 90pc in most European countries, had systematically given prominent placement in searches to its own comparison shopping service and demoted those of rivals in search results.

Ms Vestager said in a statement that Google had "denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate.

"Most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation."

The company will have to brief the Commission on what measures it plans to take within 60 days.

Eight complainants were involved in the case which the EU declined to name in line with its policy.

The EU fine is also supported by US companies such as Oracle, who previously accused the search giant of "stifling innovation".

The Commission has also charged Google with using its Android mobile operating system to the disadvantage of rivals.

The case could potentially be very damaging for the company, as it is the system used in most smartphones. It has also been accused of blocking rivals in online search advertising.

Google is one of Ireland's largest employers, with over 6,000 people at work in its Dublin offices.

Irish Independent

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