BRUSSELS — Google faces a record 2.42-billion-euro (US$2.72 billion dollar) EU fine for abusing its dominance as a search engine because it gave illegal advantage to its own shopping service, the bloc announced Tuesday.
The EU commission said Google had systematically given prominent placement to its own shopping service and demoted rival comparison shopping services in its search results.
“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And, most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation,” EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.
“We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today,” senior Google vice president and general counsel Kent Walker said after the announcement.
“We will review the commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case.”
According to EU rules, the company must now end its conduct within 90 days or face additional penalty payments of up to 5 per cent of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
Vestager said the equivalent of 1.7 billion search queries — 5.2 terabytes of data — was analyzed as part of the Google investigation.
She also said that anyone who suffered damages from “Google’s illegal behavior can claim compensation” in national courts.
The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), a formal plaintiff in the case, welcomed the decision as “a game-changer.”
“The commission confirmed that consumers do not see what is most relevant for them on the world’s most used search engine, but rather what is best for Google,” Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC said.
Goyens described today’s decision as an “important precedent of how the commission assesses the impact of anti-competitive behavior in digital markets on consumers.”
The commission in investigating whether Google abused its dominant position in two other, separate cases. One concerns the Android operating system, the other AdSense.