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Report: Europe readying “record-breaking” $3.4 billion antitrust fine against Google
Penalties reportedly will also require changes to the way search results appear.
According to the London-based The Daily Telegraph, Google is about to get hit with a “record-breaking” antitrust fine by the European Commission. It will apparently be “in the region of €3 billion” ($3.39 billion).
Citing sources familiar with the European Commission’s proceedings, The Daily Telegraph says the penalty is coming “within weeks.” The precise amount of the fine has not yet been determined, however.
The anticipated €3-billion fine is not the maximum penalty available to the Commission, which has authority to penalize companies up to a tenth of their annual global revenue. In Google’s case, that would translate into more than $6 billion.
If imposed, such a fine would not mark the end of Google’s antitrust challenges in Europe. The current matter is focused only on shopping search results. There are also formal charges pending over Google’s control over the Android operating system.
In 2014, Google was on the cusp of settling the European Commission’s investigation against the company. However, then Competition Commissioner Jaoquin Almunia was not able to politically “sell” the proposed settlement in Europe. His successor, Margarethe Vestager, has taken a tougher line. Ms. Vestager has indicated that local search/Maps and travel search may be the subject of separate investigations or charges.
Google decided that rather than make further concessions, which implicated its control over its own product, it would resist the European Commission’s case and arguments. If the fine is levied, Google can appeal to the European Court of Justice. But that court has historically shown greater deference to the European Commission than US courts have to the FTC or Department of Justice in US antitrust matters.
The Daily Telegraph also says that in addition to any fine, “Google will be banned from continuing to manipulate search results to favour itself and harm rivals.” As a practical matter, this probably means that Google will be not be able to insert cards, Knowledge Graph data or “Google properties” above or ahead of rivals on the SERP.
It remains to be seen what that would look like or how it would work.