Is Google a monopoly in advertising

Online price comparison: Google faces billions in fines

The IT group Google is threatened with a billion-dollar fine for allegedly abusing its market power in the search engine business. This means that part of the EU Commission's antitrust investigation, which has been ongoing since 2010, is coming to an end, according to the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times (both soft paywall), citing informed sources.

The process revolves around Google's own price comparison service “Google Shopping”. When searching for products on the Internet, users are given particularly prominent results, which would discriminate against competing price comparison services, argues Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Of course, general search services and price comparison services are two separate markets that Google inadmissibly short-circuits.

Penalty of ten percent of the annual turnover possible

Google has a market share of over 90 percent in the European internet search business. Should the Commission actually find that Google has abused its dominant position and hindered competition, then it can impose fines of up to ten percent of the annual turnover. That was over 90 billion US dollars at Google last year. In addition, there should be requirements for the business model and requirements to present the results of competitors on an equal footing.

As early as November, Google's chief lawyer Kent Walker denied the investigation any authorization. The company just wants to deliver the best search results, Walker wrote in a blog post. Therefore, the allegations are wrong on a "factual, legal and economic" level. In addition, the Commission did not even take into account the shopping giant Amazon in its investigation.

Further investigations are ongoing

Vestager inherited the process from her predecessor Joaquín Almunia, who almost reached an agreement with Google three years ago. Only resistance from the ranks of the commission and from consumer advocates prevented the investigation from ending too quickly. It is to be expected, however, that Google will raise an objection and take it to the European Court of Justice if the Commission should make a negative decision for the group.

The process is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. Independently of this, there are two further antitrust investigations against Google in connection with its mobile Android operating systems and the Adsense advertising service.

About the author


Tomas grew up in Vienna, worked there for various providers and also studied political science. He received his journalistic training at Heise Verlag, where he wrote for Mac & i, c't and Heise Online. He can be reached at +49 30 577148268 or [email protected] (PGP key) and tweets sometimes more, sometimes less at @tomas_np
Published 06/19/2017 at 4:57 pm