Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 27th Jun 2017 10:03 UTC

The European Commission has fined Google €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 company must now 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.

The two core offences as noted by the European Comission are as follows:

From 2008, Google began to implement in European markets a fundamental change in strategy to push its comparison shopping service. This strategy relied on Google's dominance in general internet search, instead of competition on the merits in comparison shopping markets:

  • 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.

Much like Apple's and Ireland's illegal tax deal, fines like this can be easily avoided: respect the laws regarding doing business in the EU. I don't expect the current (or the previous, for that matter) US administration to keep these incredibly powerful tech giants in check, so I guess it's up to the EU.

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by Vanders on Tue 27th Jun 2017 10:34 UTC
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Queue the complaints from Americans that the EU is "targeting American companies".

Anyway, I'm in two minds about this. On one hand, having shopping links show up when I search for some potentially obscure item is useful to me. On the other, it isn't always very clear which are the sponsored sellers; Google have generally been getting worse at clearly indicating sponsored content over the past few years.

Finally on the gripping hand, there's no way this is worth the fine being imposed: Amazon & eBay very clearly have a far larger market than anything Google has achieved with Shopping, and I can't believe it's had a large negative impact on smaller sellers beyond anything Amazon will have already done.

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