Google has been hit with a record-breaking £2.1bn fine by the European Union after an investigation found that it had been abusing the power it holds as the world’s most popular search engine.
The European Commission has ruled that Google illegally gave its own shopping comparison tool unfair prominance on its search results page.
In addition to the fine Google will have 90 days to remove the comparison tool completely or it could face further penalties.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement that Google had “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. 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.”
The fine is the culmination of a huge seven year investigation by the EU into Google’s Shopping tool.
When a person searches for something, Google will then show products at the top of your search results from various vendors and will even provide review scores if they’re available.
What makes this different to conventional comparison tools though is that in the corner there is a Sponsored icon, suggesting that some of the companies have paid to make sure their product appears.
Throughout the investigation Google has fought back saying that its outlook “doesn’t fit the reality of how most people shop online.”
Instead the search giant argues that the vast majority of customers start their shopping journey either through a dedicated mobile app such as Amazon or eBay and then continue from there.
“A third of online consumers first go to Amazon, irrespective of where they ultimately make their purchases.”, explained Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker.
“Only 14.3% go first to Google,” argues Kent. “Only 6.7% to price comparison sites. A recent US study shows similar results: 55% of US consumers start their online shopping on Amazon, 28% on search engines, and 16% go straight to individual retailers.”