The European Union’s antitrust watchdog this week fined Google a record €2.42 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules.
“Google has abused its market dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, its comparison shopping service,” the European Commission stated.
Among the European Commission’s allegations:
Google has systematically given prominent placement to its own comparison shopping service: When a consumer enters a query into the Google search engine in relation to which Google’s comparison shopping service wants to show results, these are displayed at or near the top of the search results.
Google has demoted rival comparison shopping services in its search results: Rival comparison shopping services appear in Google’s search results on the basis of Google’s generic search algorithms. Google has included a number of criteria in these algorithms, as a result of which rival comparison shopping services are demoted. 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. Google’s own comparison shopping service is not subject to Google’s generic search algorithms, including such demotions.
“As a result, Google’s comparison shopping service is much more visible to consumers in Google's search results, whilst rival comparison shopping services are much less visible,” the European Commission stated.
Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, in a blog post expressed his disappointment with the enforcement action: “When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily, and advertisers want to promote those same products. That’s why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both,” Walker wrote. “We believe the European Commission’s online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections.”
European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, disagreed. “Google’s strategy for its comparison shopping service wasn't just about attracting customers by making its product better than those of its rivals,” Vestager said. “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.”
Google must end the conduct within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.