Google fined more than $2.3bn in Europe by EU

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Google was fined more than a billion euros in 2014 for abusing its dominance The European Commission has upheld a fine of more than 2bn euros ($2.8bn; £2.1bn)…

Google fined more than $2.3bn in Europe by EU

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Google was fined more than a billion euros in 2014 for abusing its dominance

The European Commission has upheld a fine of more than 2bn euros ($2.8bn; £2.1bn) imposed on internet search engine Google.

The commission had accused Google of giving preference to its own comparison shopping service at the expense of rivals.

It also found the firm had manipulated search results to favour its own comparison shopping site.

The Commission has accused Google of harming consumers in favour of its own services and failed to provide a meaningful competitive alternative.

“The Executive considers that Google abused its market dominance in the general internet search market by prioritising its own comparison shopping service in its general internet search results even when those services were inferior to those offered by competitors,” the Commission said in a statement.

Google, which is based in Mountain View, California, said it was “disappointed” with the decision.

“We’ve long believed that these charges have no merit and will continue to fight them vigorously,” the company said.

In 2015, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced that Google had received an €2.42bn (then £2.24bn; $2.75bn) fine over the practice of favouring its own comparison shopping service above rivals.

The fine was more than three times as much as Apple had to pay for colluding with the record labels and Hollywood studios.

The fine was immediately frozen on appeal to Europe’s highest court – the European Court of Justice – in May 2017.

In September 2017, the ECJ ruled that the Commission had the authority to levy the fine, and also that any arguments for why the fine should not be paid in cash “are fundamentally founded on uncertainty about the precise actions concerned and no acceptable justification.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The move comes ahead of the EU’s deadline for companies to comply with new rules on abuse of market dominance

Following the initial ruling, Google agreed to a set of measures – known as the “scrutiny” plan – to strengthen its rival services.

These included creating a tool that ranked rival search engine results below Google.

In January, Google voluntarily came up with a software tool to correct its search results of its rivals, after they alleged the company was contravening European Union (EU) antitrust rules.

It said the changes aimed to address the EU’s concerns and help protect the practice of impartial search engine results.

Despite the companies’ agreement with Google, the commission found that the company had “failed to comply with the requirement of good faith”.

“As a result, the Commission has decided to confirm the preliminary view expressed in its charge sheet and take further actions,” it said.

Even after the Commission’s decision, several complainants are continuing to pursue their respective claims before the courts.

‘Greater clarity’

Critics say the EU’s enforcement of rules, which come into force from January 1, is too lax.

Thomas Vinje, a lawyer with the lobbying group FairSearch, which filed a complaint about Google in 2011, said the company’s punishment was “one more example of why the EU’s harsh rules against Google have failed.”

“In our view, this decision is a slap on the wrist of a company which controls 84% of the global online market for internet search,” he said.

Google’s rivals have criticised Europe’s attempts to crack down on internet companies, saying the penalties fail to apply to US companies that are not directly owned by European firms.

The BBC’s Mike Hinchey, in Brussels, said the verdict will add to an already tense relationship between the company and Europe’s authorities.

More recently, the EU has come under fire for handing out softer fines to Google and several other firms, including Apple, Amazon and Uber.

The Commission has made it clear it would not continue to countenance this behaviour.

However, Mr Hinchey said the EU had given Google so much time to get its house in order that the firm may have compromised.

The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, said the commission’s ruling will mean “greater clarity for consumers across Europe”, but that the EU’s rules must change to protect all businesses.

She said any exemptions must apply to firms that already comply with the rules “without put off investors and European consumers, such as Amazon and Starbucks”.

Leave a Comment