Google Hit With $2.7B Fine in EU's 'Worst-Kept Secret'
Competition chief Margrethe Vestager says tech giant violated antitrust rules
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2017 6:16 AM CDT
Margrethe Vestager, the EU's commissioner for competition, speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

(Newser) – Don't mess with Margrethe Vestager, even if you're Google. The tech giant found that out Tuesday when, in what Bloomberg calls "the worst-kept secret in Brussels," Europe's competition chief hit it with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine—the largest ever in this kind of case, per the New York Times. Google was fined for giving its own comparison shopping service preference over its competitors in its search results, with Vestager noting in a European Commission statement that Google "abused its market dominance as a search engine," keeping other firms from competing and consumers overseas from benefiting from that competition. The ruling notes if the company doesn't make changes within 90 days, it risks more penalties "of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google's parent company," which the BBC estimates could amount to $14 million a day.

The Google comparison shopping product, now called "Google Shopping," hit the EU in 2004, but even though its performance lagged, it still always fell at or near the top in Google search results, while rival services were "demoted." Google isn't the first Silicon Valley notable to fall onto Vestager's radar: She's also gone after Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, with critics saying her efforts have been overzealous when it comes to American companies. Google, which is expected to appeal the ruling, denies it's done anything untoward, saying competition is booming (it cites Amazon and eBay as examples) and asserting it has helped boost Europe's digital economy. Interestingly, seven US companies, including Oracle and Yelp, have signed a letter supporting the EU's "enforcement action" against Google, per Recode. (Google also wants to track what we buy offline.)

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