European’s regulators are expected to hit Google with a minimum one billion euro fine this summer for anti-competitive practices that also means Google will also have to alter its business practices in Europe.
The repercussions pertain to allegations Google favors its own shopping service in search results, but it could have ramifications beyond the Google Shopping feature. Google already faces other outstanding antitrust cases in Europe.
Citing people familiar with the case, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times said Brussels is preparing to announce the first of its trio of antitrust decisions on the company’s practices in Europe. The Journal said the EU may fine Google as much as 10 percent of its annual revenue, which means the penalty could be as much as about $9 billion. Last year, CNBC reported that Google could face similar fines for each antitrust suit. The EU's previous record antitrust fine against a company was 1.06 billion euros (about $1.18 billion) against Intel in 2009, the Journal said.
The EU could force Google to change its search results that would give equal weight to rival results. In other words, any retailer not advertising within Google Shopping would show up with equal prominence.
Google’s rivals have long complained that it has used its dominant position in online search to favor its other services, including restaurant recommendations and online maps.
A spokeswoman for the European Union’s executive arm, the European Commission, declined to comment. Representatives for Google were not immediately available for comment.
Google and the EU had worked for some time a few years ago to settle the case, and more than one tentative settlement was reached. However, former European Commission competition Joaquín Almunia was not able to win approval for the negotiated agreements. His successor, Margrethe Vestager, has been much tougher.
Assuming the fine is imposed, Google will likely appeal to the European Court of Justice.
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