Tech goliath Google has been fined €2.4bn (£2.1bn), the largest penalty to date by the European Commission in an antitrust case, for promoting its own shopping comparison service at the top of search results.
The regulator also ordered Google to end its anti-competitive practices within 90 days or risk facing a further penalty which could be as much as five per cent of its parent company Alphabet's average daily worldwide earnings.
Google said it will consider appealing the decision.
The case came about after Google's rivals including Microsoft, Yelp and Tripadvisor complained about the search giant abusing its power to promote its own shopping comparison service, leading to a seven-year-long investigation.
This is the biggest fine for a single company in an EU antitrust case, second only to the €1.06bn fine Intel received in 2009.
What the European Commission said:
European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said:
Google has come up with many innovative products and services that have made a difference to our lives. That's a good thing. But Google's strategy for its comparison shopping service wasn't just about attracting customers by making its product better than those of its rivals. 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. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.
What Google said:
Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president and general counsel, said the European Commission’s decision "underestimates the value" of providing online shoppers with products quickly.
When you use Google to search for products, we try to give you what you’re looking for. Our ability to do that well isn’t favouring ourselves, or any particular site or seller – it’s the result of hard work and constant innovation, based on user feedback.
Given the evidence, 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.
The European Commission also said that it is currently investigating whether Google has "abused a dominant position" in two other cases.
The first is over the Android operating system, where the Commission said it is concerned that "Google has stifled choice and innovation" by "pursuing an overall strategy on mobile devices to protect and expand its dominant position in general internet search".
The other case relates to AdSense, where the Commission is investigating whether Google has reduced choice by preventing third-party websites from sourcing search ads from Google's competitors.