Google fined record £2bn for shopping service search "bias"

27/06/2017

The European Commission has forced Google to pay a record fine of £2.1bn (€2.42bn) for abusing its dominance as a search engine.

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The watchdog said the search engine, owned by parent company Alphabet, breached anti-trust rules with its online shopping service.

It said Google's search engine had systematically given prominence to its own comparison shopping service, so that it was displayed at or near the top of search results.

The company has been ordered to end the conduct at the centre of the European Commission probe or face penalty payments of up to 5% of the average daily turnover of Alphabet.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said Google's innovative products and services had been "a good thing".
The fine is the largest antitrust judgement handed out by the executive body of the EU, the European Commission, and beats a €1bn penalty given to Intel in 2009.

The primary target of the case is Google Shopping, a price comparison feature built into the Google 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 the decision, Google will have to change how its search algorithm ranks websites “ to comply with the simple principle of giving equal treatment to rival comparison shopping services and its own service” — a major imposition that the company will not take lightly. If it does not end its current conduct, the EU says it faces daily penalties of up to five percent of its average daily turnover.
Google may appeal this decision in in EU courts, potentially delaying a final resolution for years. In a statement the company said: “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.”

The web giant also faces two other ongoing EU antitrust investigations: one targeting its AdSense business, and another, the deals it makes with Android phone manufacturers. The EU has the power to fine Google up to 10 percent of its annual revenue (around $9 billion) in each investigation. Today’s judgement also opens up the possibility of other companies to take civil action suits against Google.

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