After a seven-year legal battle, European authorities came down hard on Google on Tuesday for taking advantage of its dominance in online searches to direct customers to its own businesses, fining the tech giant a record 2.42 billion euros ($2.72 billion) and raising the prospect of more penalties.
A years-long analysis of Google’s online search results showed that the company lists links to its own online shopping services above those of rivals, European regulators said. On average, Google lists search results to its biggest rivals in online shopping only on Page 4 — and smaller rivals even lower. That’s a huge advantage for Google when 90 percent of use-clicks are on Page 1 of the search results.
The ruling that Google is taking advantage of its market dominance in online searches paves the way for a broader crackdown by the EU, which is investigating several other Google businesses, like its online images and travel businesses.
“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters.
To avoid more pain in Europe, Google will have to change the way it does business in the region. It has 90 days to stop favoring its own links to online shopping or face more fines of up to 5 percent of the average daily worldwide revenue of parent company Alphabet.