EU vs Silicon Valley
On Tuesday morning, the European Commission ordered Google to pay a larger-than-expected $2.7 billion (2.42 billion euros) fine over its comparison-shopping service and ordered the search giant to change how its shopping results are displayed to end what the EU antitrust regulators have deemed illegal anti-competitive behavior. It is the largest anti-competition fine the EU has ever imposed, and more than double the $1.2 billion fine it levied on chipmaker Intel in 2009. (Intel appealed, and a final ruling is expected next year.) The European Commission gave Google 90 days to acceptably end its flagged behavior or face a penalty of 5 percent of the daily average global earnings of its parent company, Alphabet — or about $14 million a day.
"Google's strategy for its comparison shopping service wasn't just about attracting customers by making its product better than those of its rivals," EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. "Instead, Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results, and demoting those of competitors. What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate." Google disputed the EU's characterization of its shopping service and said it may appeal the ruling.
This is the latest EU salvo at U.S. tech giants, following punitive actions against Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook in recent years. "European regulators — whose countries have lost the game of tech, pipes, and content — are getting aggressive in trying to constrain the behemoths," suggests Axios. Though $2.7 billion is a record, "Alphabet can afford the fine," BBC News notes, as Google's parent company "currently has more than $172 billion of assets." It also has $92 billion in cash, The Associated Press says, adding that "the penalty is likely to leave a bigger dent in Google's pride and reputation than its finances." Still, Vestager said she may use the EU ruling as a template for similar complaints about Google Maps, local business listings, and flight ticket prices.