E.U. Fines Google €2.4bn Over Abuse of Search Dominance ft.com

Rochelle Toplensky, Financial Times:

The European Commission ended its seven-year competition investigation on Tuesday, concluding that the search group had abused its near-monopoly in online search to “give illegal advantage” to its own shopping service.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said Google “denied other companies the chance to compete” and left consumers without “genuine choice”.

“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.”

The fine levied against Google — technically, I think, against Alphabet — is record-breaking for the European Union. Rani Molla, Recode:

How big? Well, it’s more than twice as big as the next biggest fine against Intel in 2009. Google, one of the world’s most valuable companies, posted $5.4 billion in profit on $24.7 billion in revenue in the first quarter of this year.

Maya Kosoff, Vanity Fair:

Critics have accused Vestager, the competition commissioner and antitrust chief, of unfairly singling out U.S. companies for anti-trust probes. A year ago, the European Commission ordered Apple to repay $14.5 billion in back taxes, plus interest, to the European Union after spending years funneling its profits through an Irish subsidiary in an attempt to lower its tax bill. In May, Vestager fined Facebook 110 million euros for allegedly providing incorrect or misleading information during the commissions’s probe into its acquisition of WhatsApp. That same month, Amazon reached an agreement with Vestager to conclude her commission’s anti-trust investigation into the e-commerce giant’s e-book contracts.

I think reactions painting this as anti-American or anti-Google are missing the point of the E.U.’s decision. This is about reinforcing that companies with monopoly-like market share ought to behave more cautiously than those without. Google may have the most popular search engine on the planet for a justifiable reason, but it’s not a punishment to suggest that that kind of power ought to be treated with an elevated level of care.