In what could be a pretty..preeettttyyy heavy blow to Google, the Internet giant stands to face a record fine of around 3 billion euros (or $3.4 billion) from the European Commission, in the antitrust probe that had been dragging on since the past seven years.
If administered, the fine would be the largest levied by the commission till date, surpassing the previous high of €1.1bn paid by microchip giant Intel. The hammer is slated to fall before the summer break and indeed, the fine could be announced as early as next month. As per the prevalent laws, the commission can fine companies a maximum of 10 percent of their annual sales — which in Google’s case, would be slightly over 6 billion euros.
While the magnitude of the fine is certainly surprising, the crime over which it is being imposed is no less so. Google has been accused of not only using it’s almost-monopoly in the search market to promote its shopping service in Internet searches at the expense of rival services, but also of making changes to its algorithms during the investigation. The changes not only made life harder for competitors, but also — as per some EU officials — served to impede and delay the course of the investigation.
The company will also in all likelihood, be banned from manipulating search results to favor itself over competitions and impede fair trade. And we can also count upon the EU officials to keep several vigilant eyes in that direction. As per The Telegraph,
The company has fiercely resisted such interference in its algorithms, the heart of its business, and sought to placate regulators with offers to redesign the presentation of result.
However, ever since the accession of Margarethe Vestager as the Competition Commissioner, Google is not having much luck. There is also the possibility of the commission pressing further charges in other specialized web search markets such as travel information and maps. What’s more, a new investigation into alleged monopoly abuse related to Google’s Android smart-phone software, may also be on the cards.
So yes, Google does seem to be having a bad run of luck, and several significant policy changes may be on the cards before the EU is done with the search engine giant. Furthermore, i won’t be surprised if the EU’s aggressive stance encourages the regulatory bodies elsewhere, to launch their own probes into Google’s affairs.
Meanwhile, Google has the option of opposing the fine and the new search rules in the European Court of Justice.