After concluding a seven-year investigation into Google triggered by massive complaints from both its U.S. and European rivals, the EU antitrust regulators intend to slap a hefty fine on Alphabet unit Google over its shopping service before the summer break takes place in August. The sanction will also pave the way for two other cases involving the world’s most popular internet search engine.
The EU competition authority alleged in April 2015 that Google was distorting internet search results to favor its shopping service causing harm to both its rivals and its consumers.
Google would not comment now, but the American company has previously denied the charges, and claimed that regulators ignored competition from online retailers Amazon and eBay.
The EU Commission has also declined to give a statement about its sanction for now. Fines for companies found guilty of violating EU antitrust rules, however, can reach 10 percent of their global turnover. In Google’s case, that could translate to about $9 billion of its 2016 turnover.
Other than the fine, the EU Commission will also ask Google to stop its alleged anti-competitive practices. It is not yet clear, though, what measures it will order Google to adopt to ensure that rivals get equal treatment in internet shopping results. The regulator can opt to set out general principles or specific instructions for Google to follow.
The EU Commission's tough stance is in sharp contrast with the US Federal Trade Commission which settled its own web search case with Google in 2013 by requiring it to merely stop “scraping” reviews and other data from rival websites for its own products.
Google previously made three attempts to settle the case with the previous European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia in the hopes of blocking fine and being faulted for a wrongdoing, but was unsuccessful in all its tries. Almunia's successor Margrethe Vestager has also shown no willingness to settle with Google.
Google has also been charged with using its Android mobile operating system to disadvantage its rivals and with blocking competitors in online search advertising related to its “AdSense for Search” platform. The platform permits Google to serve as an intermediary for websites such as online retailers, telecoms operators or newspapers. The EU Commission has also sternly warned of massive fines in both cases.