EU announces record $2.7 billion antitrust fine on Google over search results

Posted June 27th, 2017

BRUSSELS - The European Union's antitrust chief announced a record $2.7 billion fine against Google on Tuesday, saying that the powerful company illegally steered users toward its comparison shopping website.

The fine is the largest the European Union has ever levied against a company for abusing its dominant position, and marked the latest confrontation over business practices between EU regulators and American tech giants.

If the ruling stands, it could reshape how the company presents search results in one of its most lucrative markets. The landmark ruling sets up a major clash about whether government regulators can shape the behavior of one of the world's most powerful companies.

Google is expected to appeal the decision.

"Google has abused its market dominance in its search engine by promoting its own shopping comparison service in its search results, and demoting its competitors," EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager told reporters in Brussels.

"What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It has denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it has denied European consumers the benefits of competition."

And as President Trump advocates a fierce America-first policy of trade protectionism, the ruling also raised questions of how his administration would respond to the broadside hit against one of the richest companies in the United States.

The EU antitrust chief said Google had illegally taken advantage of its juggernaut position in the world of search engines, pushing users toward its comparison shopping service and advertisers over those of rivals.

In April, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said shopping inquires had increased 45 percent in the past year.

"Our investments in innovative ad formats, improved targeting and better measurement are really helping retailers, who see us as an ally in their corner," Pichai told investors while discussing the first-quarter earnings of parent company Alphabet Inc.

Last month, Facebook agreed to pay $122 million in fines to the European Union over charges that it misled regulators during its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp. The fine was among the largest the company has had to pay to any government.

European regulators said Facebook was not honest about its ability to identify users who had both Facebook and WhatsApp accounts and link those accounts. At the time of the merger review, regulators were particularly concerned that WhatsApp users would have their information shared with Facebook without their consent.

---

Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.

Comments