The Telegraph reports that Google may soon be hit with the largest antitrust fine every handed out by the EU. Since 2010, Google has been under investigation in the EU over claims that it is abusing its market dominance by prioritizing its shopping service in search results over those of its competitors. There have been attempts to reach a settlement, but no resolution was entered into between Google and the European Commission. Last year the Commission formally charged Google with anti-competitive practices. Sources close to the Commission say it will soon be ready to levy a fine on the company, possibly as early as next month.
According to sources, the Commission intends to fine the search giant €3 billion, or about $3.4 billion. This is a record-breaking sum far more than the €1.1 billion($1.4 billion) penalty levied against US chip maker Intel, which is the largest antitrust fine the EU has handed out so far. Insiders also state that the actual amount of the fine has not been finalized. The real fine may end up being lower, but it might end up higher as well. The law sets the maximum fine in antitrust cases to 10% of the company’s annual sales. This would make the maximum possible fine for Google €6.6 billion, or about $7.5 billion.
In addition to the fine, the company may be forced to alter its algorithm so that it does not penalize competitors. This was something Google was strongly against when it was still in the negotiation stages with the EU. Google has fiercely resisted attempts to interfere with its algorithms, which the company considers the heart of its business. Google did offer to change the presentation of search results rather than altering the algorithm itself, but this suggestion was rejected by regulators.
The heavy penalties by the EU are said to take into account the fact that Google’s anti-competitive business practices have been in place for several years. They are also intended to make an example out of Google over its conduct during the investigation. Google has drawn the ire of EU official over what they consider delaying tactics that hindered the investigation, as well as making changes to the search algorithm that put competitors at an even greater disadvantage.
Aside from this case, Google is also being investigated in the EU on antitrust grounds due to its business practices relating to the Android operating system. The stock image company Getty has also filed an antitrust complaint against Google in the EU over the presentation of images in its search results.
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