New York: Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals, reported the New York Times.
The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region’s competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. Google denies the accusations.
By levying the fine — the biggest ever in this type of antitrust case — Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s antitrust chief, has laid down a marker as arguably the Western world’s most aggressive regulator of digital services from the likes of Google and Facebook.
She has already demanded that Apple repay $14.5 billion in back taxes in Ireland, opened an ongoing investigation into Amazon’s tax practices in Europe and raised concerns about Facebook’s alleged dominance over people’s digital data. The companies deny any wrongdoing.
Such focus on Silicon Valley firms has prompted accusations from some in the United States that Europe is unfairly targeting American companies. The region’s officials vigorously deny these claims.
But with the record antitrust fine against Google — the previous high, against Intel in 2009, was €1.06 billion — officials from the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, have gone significantly further than their American counterparts in determining what is, and is not, allowed to take place on the web.
Google has repeatedly denied that it has breached Europe’s tough competition rules, saying that its digital services have helped the region’s digital economy to grow and are used by hundreds of millions of Europeans each day. It also adds that there remains significant online competition in Europe, including from the likes of Amazon and eBay.