Google, a unit of Alphabet, the world’s leading technology company, has been slammed a record $2.7 billion fine by Europe’s anti-trust agency. The fine signalled a tough stance by the agency in the first of three investigations into the company’s dominance in searches and smartphones.
It is the biggest fine the EU has ever imposed on a single company in an anti-trust case, exceeding a 1.06-billion-euro sanction handed down to U.S. chipmaker Intel in 2009, Reuters reported. The European Commission said the world’s most popular internet search engine has 90 days to stop favouring its own shopping service or face a further penalty per day of up to 5 percent of Alphabet’s average daily global turnover. The fine, equivalent to 3 percent of Alphabet’s turnover, is the biggest regulatory setback for Google, which settled with U.S. enforcers in 2013 without a penalty after agreeing to change some of its search practices. The EU competition enforcer has also charged Google with using its Android mobile operating system to crush rivals, a case that could potentially be the most damaging for the company, with the system used in most smartphones.
The company has also been accused of blocking rivals in online search advertising. The Commission found that Google, with a market share in searches of over 90 percent 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. “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,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
Google said its data showed people preferred links taking them directly to products they want and not to websites where they have to repeat their search. “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,” Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, said in a statement.