Search engine dominator Google has been slapped with a 2.7 billion dollar fine from the European Union. This is by far the largest fine given to a tech company by the EU. Google was given this historically large antitrust fine for unfairly steering traffic to their own shopping platform and giving competitors an unfair disadvantage. This fine comes after an investigation by the EU which has been going on since 2010. The question at large is, was the EU justified in giving Google this fine? The simple answer is yes. Google did something illegal to the EU, and they are acting in ways that would promote Google as a monopoly, which is against many countries laws.
So what did Google exactly do? When you search for a product, let’s say shoes, you would type that word into the search bar. When the results pop up, a few boxes pop up at the top of the page. If you click on one of these boxes, it will direct you over to Google Shopping, where you can purchase the shoes from Google’s own service. Competitors are listed in the results from the middle to the bottom of the page. The EU claims that this is unfair advertising, by promoting “in-house” they are favoring their own service to other services. This violates the EU’s antitrust laws, therefore they slapped Google with the large fine. Google denied that they were favoring their own service. Google made a statement that they were simply trying to show ads in ways that would benefit both who was searching for the product, and who was selling the product. They claimed that they were featuring sellers just as much as their own Google Shopping, and that you could look into their algorithm to prove it.
This isn’t the first time Google has been questioned for their self promoting on their own search engine. In 2014, a German publisher Axel Springer claimed that it was copyrighting by showing parts of their news broadcast on Google News. Google agreed and took off the content. However, Axel Springer saw an 80% decrease in in-site traffic, and gave Google back the rights. There was also a concern with Google promoting their own review system over others such as Yelp or any other review type website. When you search in Google for a movie, their reviews show up first, so naturally any reviewer website for movies would pop up underneath that. There has been no fine or anything else for this issue yet, but perhaps we will see one in the future. There has been a few other times in Googles history where a government tried to limit what they could and could not do, and almost ever time it has blown up in the face of the government.
So, is what Google is doing actually wrong? The answer is yes. The action of putting Google Shopping at the top where peoples eyes first go is absolutely illegal and anti-competitive. Google has 90 days from the time that the fine was issued to start putting Google Shopping in the same way they list other competitors. The problem for Google isn’t just paying the fine and moving on with their time. The issue is that a government is now forcing them to change how searches are conducted. This will cause a lot of changes in Google’s algorithm, and probably cause some headaches with the rapid movement to voice controlled commands.
Some may claim that the EU is punishing Google because American internet companies dominate over the internet world. Since Europe has produced very few internet giants, they might find it unfair that the ones they do have are not getting the same treatments as other ones. Although the fact that The United States does have the most internet giants, it would be ridiculous to claim that the EU is fining them based on these grounds. It is clear that Google has violated the law, and although they still have a chance to appeal this fine in court, it is most likely that they will lose. Most likely Google will pay the fine, switch the algorithm, and go on being a internet dominator. This action from the EU will certainly set the precedent for future internet companies.