EU Hits Google with Record Fine

Google faces a record fine for manipulating search results

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, today handed down the 2.4 billion euro fine, putting an end to an investigation into whether Google favored its own shopping services above competitors in search results.

Google has been hit with a record fine of €2.4bn by Europe's competition watchdog after breaching anti-trust rules with its online shopping service.

A Google spokesperson said the firm will consider appealing the fine. To gain an advantage, Google allegedly changed its strategy and started to give prominent placement to its own comparison shopping service at the expense of its competitors. "They allowed Google's comparison shopping service to make significant gains in traffic at the expense of its rivals and to the detriment of European consumers". Joaquin Almunia, the then competition commissioner, noted in a release that "Google has finally accepted to guarantee that whenever it promotes its own specialised search services on the page, the services of rivals will also be displayed in a comparable way".

The actual situation is significantly more complex as even some tech giants with comparable resources like Microsoft previously filed antitrust complaints against Google's practices, alleging that the company is abusing its market power in an effort to penetrate more segments. "It has denied other companies the chance to compete on their merits and to innovate, and most importantly it has denied European consumers the benefits of competition, genuine choice and innovation".

Some commentators have suggested the European Union are merely trying to kerb the influence of "GAFA" - the American giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Complainants also say the precedent should extend to technologies from other companies.

The action came after a seven-year long investigation prompted by scores of complaints from rivals such as US consumer review website Yelp, TripAdvisor, UK price comparison site Foundem, News Corp and lobbying group FairSearch. "And advertisers want to promote those same products", the company statement said.

While the fine specifically relates to Google Shopping, it is understood that the Commission is looking at all of Google's vertical products, which clearly brings Google Flights and Google Hotels into the firing line.

When internet users search for a product online, Google often shows them a bunch of ads that seem to relate to the search.

Her move against Google risks attracting further criticism that she's unfairly singled out USA companies.

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