European authorities came down hard on Google yesterday for taking advantage of its dominance in online searches to direct customers to its own businesses, fining the tech giant a record $2.72 billion.
A years-long analysis of Google’s online search results showed that the company lists links to its own online shopping services above those of rivals, European regulators said. On average, Google lists search results to its biggest rivals in online shopping only on page 4 — and smaller rivals even lower. That’s a huge advantage for Google when 90 percent of user-clicks are on page one.
The ruling that Google is taking advantage of its market dominance in online searches paves the way for a broader crackdown by the EU, which is investigating several other Google businesses, like its online images and travel businesses.
“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,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters.
Google has 90 days to stop favoring its own links to online shopping or face more fines of up to 5 percent of the average daily worldwide revenue of parent company Alphabet. Google says it is considering an appeal and maintains it’s just trying to package its search results in a way that makes it easier for consumers to find what they want.
“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, a senior vice president at Google, said in a statement.