The European Commission (EC) has been investigating Google for alleged anti-competitive practices for some time now. Today, the European Union's antitrust regulators handed Google a record-breaking fine, as they concluded a seven-year investigation into the firm's shopping search service.
"The European Commission has fined Google €2.42 billion [roughly $2.7 billion] for breaching EU antitrust rules," the EC said in a press release today. "Google has abused its market dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, its comparison shopping service."
The EC ordered Google to end its anti-competitive practices within 90 days "or face penalty payments up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google's parent company."
European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who oversees EU competition policy stated:
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."
The fine dwarfs Europe's previous largest antitrust penalty, a €1.1 billion fine directed at Intel in 2009. The EC can apply a maximum fine equivalent to 10% of a company's global annual sales, which for Google would have amounted to roughly $9 billion of its 2016 revenue. Google is unlikely to draw much comfort from knowing that its fine could have been a great deal larger.
Google is still entangled in further antitrust investigations by the EC.
Following a separate probe, the EC formally accused Google in April 2016 of having "abused its dominant position" in Europe with its Android operating system. Google responded by saying that Android is "good for competition and for consumers". The EC hasn't yet announced its final determination in that case, which could also result in massive fines for the company.
Google is also under a third antitrust investigation by the EC, in which it stands accused of having abused its dominant position in the online advertising market, after it allegedly prohibited AdSense for Search users from accepting rival search ads.