Google has been hit with a record-breaking €2.42 billion ($2.7 billion) fine by the European Union for breaking antitrust law. The decision follows a seven-year investigation into the US search giant’s shopping comparison service, which ended with the judgement that Google had “abused its dominant position by systematically favoring” its own services. Today’s fine is the largest antitrust judgement handed out by the executive body of the EU, the European Commission, and beats a €1 billion penalty given to Intel in 2009.

The target of today’s case is Google Shopping, a price comparison feature built into the company’s main search engine. The commission’s antitrust filing states that Google showed users results from Google Shopping “irrespective of [their] merits,” depriving rival price comparison sites of traffic. As part of today’s decision, Google will have to change how its search algorithm ranks websites — a major imposition that the company will not take lightly. If it does not end its current conduct, says the EU, it will face penalties of up to five percent of its average daily turnover.

In a press statement, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager praised Google for coming up with “many innovative products and services that have made a difference to our lives.” But, she added, the company also “abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results, and demoting those of competitors.”

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” said Vestager. “It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”

Google will likely appeal any decision in EU courts, delaying a final resolution for years. At the same time, the US company faces two other ongoing EU antitrust investigations: one targeting its AdSense business, and another, the deals it makes with Android phone manufacturers. As with today’s case, the EU has the power to fine Google up to 10 percent of its annual revenue (around $9 billion) in each investigation. In all cases, Google denies all wrongdoing.

Today’s decision will anger the US business world, which has accused the EU of unfair treatment against American tech companies. Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, has previously come under fire for a 2016 decision forcing Apple to pay Ireland €13 billion in back taxes. The EU denies it is biased against the US, and there’s data to support this. Examining past antitrust decisions made by the commission between 2010 and 2017, 15 percent have hit US companies, while nearly two-thirds have targeted European firms.

More details to follow soon.

Source: The Verge