Google Slapped With Record $2.7 Billion Antitrust Fine in Europe
The EU claims that Google isn’t playing fair, but the search giant plans to fight back.
The European Union has hit Google with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine—the largest ever of its kind—based on the claim that Google gave its own shopping listings an unfair advantage against competitors within Google Search. Per the EU, Google has 90 days to change their policies or face even steeper fines. A Google spokesperson says the internet giant will appeal.
The news comes amid growing concerns that the web’s biggest players, namely, Google parent-company Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook, have become too dominant. Together with Apple and Amazon, these U.S. tech giants are among the largest companies in the world based on market cap. The duopoly of Google and Facebook combine for more than 75 percent of the U.S. ad market, while Amazon is on pace to capture half of all online sales in the U.S. by 2021.
Per the landmark antitrust case, the EU claims that Google has directly interfered with search engine results since 2008, causing traffic levels to Google Shopping to spike at the expense of other shopping services. Per the EU, the alleged actions defy antitrust rules in the region, which serve to protect the market (and end consumers) against marketplace manipulation.
“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Competition Commissioner. “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.”
As for a rebuttal, Kent Walker, Google’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, took to a blog post explaining that Google’s decision to offer up its own Shopping listings are beneficial to both users and advertisers alike. “We believe the European Commission’s online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections,” he said.
The notion of “connections” is an important one to consider, as this antitrust action serves as a strike against one of Google’s most obvious competitive advantages: the ability to promote its own interests across properties like Google Search, Shopping, and YouTube.
Experts say the appeal could take years to resolve, and it remains up in the air if Google can successfully overturn the decision. Following the news, Alphabet stock fell 1 percent, with some experts predicting that this could be the first antitrust action of many.
At SMWLA, author and Annenberg Innovation Lab Director Jonathan Taplin discussed the mounting dominance of tech giants in his talk, “Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.” In this session, Taplin presented his belief that Google, Amazon, and Facebook are monopolies that should be broken up for the sake of fair competition—namely within the music, film, television, publishing and news industries.
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