Business

Google hit with $3.75 billion antitrust fine by EU

BRUSSELS The European Union (EU) has hit Google with a record €2.4 billion (S$3.75 billion) fine yesterday for illegally favouring its shopping service in search results, in a fresh assault on US firms that risks the wrath of US President Donald Trump.

European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager said Google "abused its market dominance" as the world's most popular search engine to give an advantage to its Google Shopping service.

"What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules," she said.

"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 now has 90 days to "end this conduct" or face further fines, Ms Vestager said.

These could amount to 5 per cent of Google's daily revenue, she added.

Google said it "respectfully" disagreed with the EU decision, which followed a seven-year investigation, and may appeal.

"When you shop online, you want to find the products you are looking for quickly and easily. And advertisers want to promote those same products," Mr Kent Walker, Google's senior vice-president and general counsel, said in a statement.

"That is why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.

"We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case."

The EU alleges that in 2008, Google embarked on a "fundamental change in strategy" by devoting top of the page priority to Google Shopping, pushing rivals further down the page.

The Google fine could also set an important precedent for other Google services, such as for images, news and travel, that have also received complaints from rivals. - AFP

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