Google Ordered To Pay Record $2.7 Billion Antitrust Fine Over Shopping Search Results

Image courtesy of Great Beyond

Nearly a year after rumors began swirling that Google could face a record-breaking fine in order to put a six-year long European antitrust investigation related to its search behind it. European regulators are ordering the tech giant to pay up, to the tune of $2.7 billion.

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.

The Commission’s investigation first began in 2010 after it received complaints from rivals such as Yelp, UK comparison site Foundem, and other groups. The EU formally charged Google with unlawfully promoting its own price comparison or shopping service in general searches in April 2015.

On Tuesday, the European Commission held that Google had given prominent placement in searches to its own comparison shopping service, while pushing rivals’ search results further down the search result page.

“Evidence shows that even the most highly ranked rival service appears on average only on page four of Google’s search results, and others appear even further down,” the Commission’s investigation found. “Google’s own comparison shopping service is not subject to Google’s generic search algorithms, including such demotions.”

This is a problem, according to the regulators, as Google has a market share in searches of over 90% in most European countries, Reuters reports.

Additionally, because evidence shows that consumers click far more often on results that are more visible, or appear higher in search results, Google is giving its own comparison shopping service a significant advantage compared to rivals, according to the Commission.

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. “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.”

Under the settlement, Google has 90 days to stop favoring its own shopping service or face a further penalty per day, equal to up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet.

This fine, Reuters estimates, could translate to about $12 million a day based on Google-parent company Alphabet’s turnover of $90.3 billion in 2016.

A rep for Google tells Reuters that the company respectfully disagrees with the Commission’s finding.

“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.