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Google hit with largest ever EU fine for abuse of search power

The EU could impose further fines on the tech giant if it fails to change the way it operates its shopping service.

By Ellie Burns

Google has been hit with a huge £2.1bn fine by the European Commission following a ruling that the tech giant had abused its search power.

The fine is the biggest penalty to date handed out by the regulator and brings to a close a legal row which saw the search giant accused of trying to distort the market.

The search giant was accused of pushing its own shopping comparison service to the top of search results. The ruling not only includes the mega-fine, but also calls on Google to stop its anti-competitive practices within 90 days.

The Silicon Valley firm will be required to change the way it operates its shopping service, or face further fines. If the tech giant makes no changes within three months, the regulator could force Google to make payments of 5% of its parent company Alphabet’s average daily worldwide earnings. That could total $14 million per day, if the company’s most recent financial report is taken into account.

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” declared Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’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.”

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The ruling could have implications for others in the market, namely Amazon and eBay. Interestingly, Google has argued in the past that the aforementioned companies have more influence over the public’s spending habits. Google could also face further anti-trust suits, with Ms Vestager saying that the ruling could set a precedent to how she handles future complaints regarding Google’s search results.

Although the ruling could signal an end to the seven-year legal wrangling between Google and the regulator, the search giant has vowed to appeal the decision.

“When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily,” a Google spokesman said following the ruling.

“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.

“We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case.”

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