If you have wondered how a Google search for items always brings to the top items favoured by the search engine and not a non-weighted list, the answer is that Google has been promoting its own shopping showcase ahead of others; a biased show.
This was investigated and found to be true by the European Commission (EC), which, on June 26 imposed a record 2.42bn euros ($2.7bn, £2.1bn) fine on the world’s favourite and most powerful search engine.
The EC said that this fine was because the search engine used its reach and power and abused it to promote its own shopping showcase.
This becomes the largest penalty to date on any company using unfair trade practices to distort market preferences.
Interestingly, this came two days after Google’s India-origin CEO Sundar Pichai had met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was at the time touring the US. The day after his meeting with 20 American CEOs, Modi had a summit meeting with US President Donald Trump. Among the CEOs who met Modi were also Satya Nadella, the India-origin CEO of Microsoft and Jeff Bezos, the chief of Amazon.
The EC also ordered Google to end its anti-competitive practises within 90 days, or face more penalties. The company wants to appeal.
This is a hard hit to Google, and its parent company Alphabet will not be too happy at the developments, though this fine is just 5 percent of Alphabet’s average daily worldwide earnings.
European Union’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It has denied other companies the chance to compete on their merits and to innovate, and most importantly it has denied European consumers the benefits of competition, genuine choice and innovation.”
No specific remedy has been suggested by EC, while it leaves the method to change to the company.
What was up for contention – as per complaints received – were Google’s own offering of alternatives, including maps, flight price results and local business listings, as pre media reports.
A Google spokesperson said: “When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily. And advertisers want to promote those same products. That’s why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.”
“We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case,” he said.
—India Legal Bureau