back to article Google hit with record antitrust fine of €2.4bn by Europe

Google was today hit with a record antitrust fine of €2.42bn (£2.1bn) from the European Union today for promoting its own shopping search service over those of smaller rivals. The regulator found that Google had abused its market dominance as a search engine "by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, its …

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"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.”

Translation: "You bastards. You're never going to see this money as we're going to spend at least as much as the fine, if not more, keeping it in the courts using every delaying tactic our highly paid lawyers can think up, for ever and ever and ever, or at least, until hopefully the time when EU disappears up its own arse".

EDIT: I'm pleased with the EU for recognising the unfair leverage that companies including Google can wield, but fines cannot be a solution, as there are too many way that such behemoths can mitigate such paltry amounts - Alphabet had revenues of 90Bn last year. Other solutions which block these strategies, up to and including e.g. blocking the websites offending, have to be considered.

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"Alphabet had revenues of 90Bn last year". Revenue is not profit and the court hasn't said "This is our final settlement": these fines can be applied again and again, if needed.

"Other solutions...have to be considered". No, courts have standard means by which penalties are imposed e.g. fines or (for criminal cases) imprisonment (or worse, in some countries). Although other means may be available to the court, they don't "have" to use them to suit you or the defendant.

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EddieD,

Why get angry, before you've even been offended?

Google can't push this through the courts for years and years. There's only one avenue of appeal, and that's it. They can appeal to the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg - which is the EU's highest court and after that there's nowhere else to go. After the Commission fined Microsoft, they'd appealed and lost within 2 years. I'm sure it'll be similar with Google.

This isn't like the Apple / Samsung dispute that took place in a court in California, where there were all sorts of levels to appeal through. In this case the Commission is acting in a quasi-judicial role, and then then there's only one place to go.

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Re: but fines cannot be a solution

Because it won't be many days until the US authorities find a European business, it doesn't matter who, and lob a retaliatory fine in their direction.

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How have I been harmed, exactly?

Apparently I've just been brutally violated by some evil corporation, but never even noticed.

Sneaky bastards.

[Checks underpants]

Nope, all my bits are still present and correct.

So I googled for "how has google harmed me today", but just got a bunch of news stories all saying basically the same thing, that Google is evil and must be crucified.

But, for the life of me, I still can't figures out exactly how I've been harmed.

Whatever it was, it must've been pretty bad to warrant beeelions in fines, Shirley.

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Re: How have I been harmed, exactly?

Oh Homer,

If you want to know how you've been violated, take a look at Google's privacy policies.

But this case wasn't about that, or about harm to you. This case was about harm to shopping price comparison sites - who were trying to make a buck in the market a few years ago and got unfairly (at least according to the EU) muscled out by Google. The argument being that Google's price comparison was crap at the time (which it was), and yet they got all the clicks when the actually popular and quite useful sites started slipping down the Google rankings.

I'm not sure how fair that is, because I didn't find many price comparison sites to be much cop, and so mostly gave up on them - but I do remember Google's being worse than the couple I was using back around 2005.

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ah yes

But if I were Google I'd pull up stakes, block all EU access and let the dictators in Belgium be hoisted on their own petard.

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Possible solution

Google pulls up all stakes in the EU, drifts back across the pond. Blocks all EU access to its services and lets the bureaucrat dictators in the EU eat cake.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How have I been harmed, exactly?

Try reading the judgment, it will detail exactly how you have been harmed.

In the meantime, feel free to think wonderful Google/Alphabet are and how you could never live without them, I'm sure they will love you back just as much.

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Re: but fines cannot be a solution

USA already fined EU companies in case news have did not reach you.

USA fined Deutsche Bank for $7.2 billion

USA fined GERMAN company VW for $4.3 billion

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it's not just the fine, Google also has to stop doing the things it was fined for

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WTF?

Didn't even realize...

...that google had a price comparison site.

Seriously! I heard bout it here first!

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Re: How have I been harmed, exactly?

But, for the life of me, I still can't figures out exactly how I've been harmed.

You haven't, not directly anyway. The harm that has been suffered has been suffered by the price comparison and shopping sites that might have appeared higher up in the lists on Google's search results had Google not put their own selection at the top.

Those price comparison and shopping sites would claim that as punters went to the Google-preferred sites at the top of the list it was those sites whose adverts got all the clicks, and that the sites that were not preferred therefore suffered a loss of advertising revenue. Without that revenue, they would say, they were unable to compete effectively with Google's preferred sites and offer you, the punter, an effective choice of price comparison and shopping sites.

Google might counter that by saying that the preferred sites, because they get more clicks and so more advertising revenue, are better able to invest in the development of truly superlative .... price comparison and shopping sites.

You, on the other hand, might think that they're all parasites, anyway and should go and get a real job rather than preying on online shoppers with their annoying adverts.

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Re: Possible solution

...might encourage the EU to start developing it's own services instead of everybody relying upon the caprices of an American company, and then moaning about it.

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Re: but fines cannot be a solution

USA already fined EU companies in case news have did not reach you.

oh and BP before that.

But who'll be next?

The thing about retaliation is that it tends to escalate.

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Re: Possible solution

Google is welcome to pull out of Europe. They are quite a good search engine, but they make a lot more money out of Europe than Europe makes out of them. They are also free to pull out of China, where they are treated far more badly than in the EU, but funnily enough they are willing to put up with that, too.

It's only politicians who believe that their country's businesses can dis-engage with the rest of humanity and somehow come out stronger. Everyone who is actually in business thinks it is a daft idea.

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Re: How have I been harmed, exactly?

Those price comparison and shopping sites would claim

But I've never asked Google to tell me who can tell where to buy something, I've always asked Google to tell me. So if they are returning links to other comparison sites they aren't doing what I asked for.

If I type in a query saying "Who can tell me where the cheapest place to buy an OkiKoky2000" then they should be returning hits on price comparison sites.

If I type in a query saying "Where the cheapest place to buy an OkiKoky2000" I rather expect them to tell me not say "I'm not allowed to say but I know some other people who are".

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Ahh, but you're thinking legally. Google doesn't have to operate in "the old ways"

Were I them, I'd be looking at elections and "Search Engine Optimization" to get more "reliable" persons into positions of power. Persons who can then make more friendly decisions to them.

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FAIL

Re: How have I been harmed, exactly?

But, for the life of me, I still can't figures out exactly how I've been harmed.

That local shop who would've sold you the product for much the same price, but you would've had it sooner and with much better service? Well, you don't see them in your search because Google has decided their page doesn't display correctly on a smartwatch, therefore they must be demoted to page 11.

Meanwhile, although Google's sites aren't exactly as "mobile friendly" as other places, their own service somehow takes the top spot and a few others, meaning you don't get to see other options.

That local store - the owner would've had money to spend locally, perhaps with your firm. Instead your money went elsewhere.

(I am a very firm supporter of "buy locally where possible" because it keeps your countryfolk in work, and if your countryfolk have money to spend they spend it in your store - if everyone ships money to Google/Amazon/Ali Express, we have nothing left to spend locally, local jobs suffer...)

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Re: Possible solution

Google pulls up all stakes in the EU, drifts back across the pond. Blocks all EU access to its services and lets the bureaucrat dictators in the EU eat cake.

Cool. Can they block all access to NZ as well? That way we'd be able to shift people to better quality search tools rather than Google shifting our private data to their systems though fair means and foul.

In fact, what would be really cool if Google was to build a YEEEUGE wall around their campus in the US, take all their staff in there, cut all outside connections, and then they can sit on their piles of ill-gotten cash and happily affirm to each other just how great they all are while the rest of the world gets on with some real innovation!

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Anonymous Coward

It seems to be selective prosecution though... Cisco has a dominant position in networking, Microsoft has a dominant position in PC OSs and productivity, Oracle in DB, IBM with mainframe, Facebook with social networking, Amazon with online retail and now, arguably, cloud. All of these companies have used their positions to limit competitors... The tech industry is nothing but dominant position companies... So why Google now and MSFT with Windows in the 90s, for instance, was ndb.

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Microsoft has been dealt with, on the others you're generally wrong. Juniper, Sql Server/PostgreSQL/MySql etc, Cray, and who fucking cares about social networking.

You need to understand just what level of market share Google has and hence how much power it has in order to appreciate you then get to play by a special set of regulatory rules due to that power. MS found out in the past.

Why Google now and MSFT in the 90s? Errr, not sure but I'm guessing that's when they offended.

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The stated amount of the fine represents roughly 3% of Alphabets cash on hand.

To put that in terms relateable to an individuals finances it's about what one would spend on a trip to the local coffee bar.

If the Courts and Legislatures wish to make fines roughly proportional to those levied against individuals then they need to express those fines levied against these Mega-Monopolies in terms of Net Worth or Earnings. We see a first step in that direction described in the potential fines that Google will be facing if they don't have corrective actions acceptable to the Court in place within 90 days.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: but fines cannot be a solution

"Because it won't be many days until the US authorities find a European business, it doesn't matter who, and lob a retaliatory fine in their direction."

Trump will probably invade Belgium. The EU just screwed up big league, believe me.

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Re: retaliation

Oh well, it seems the FT agree with me at least.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How have I been harmed, exactly?

"But, for the life of me, I still can't figures out exactly how I've been harmed."

Exactly. For all these people saying Google has cost them money or is greedy, I can't find one who has ever paid Google any money... despite using their software/services all day.

It's pretty easy to find ways that Google has saved the average person money. Google did do the world a massive service. If not for Android, you would likely have a Windows Phone in your pocket (or an iPhone). You would be paying for that license. Without Google making it easy for publisher to get ad sponsorship, many if not most of the sites you visit would have paywalls where they asked you for some amount of money per month to view their content. Google has saved the average person a ton of cash.... Likewise on the corporate side. Hadoop would likely not exist without Google, much of the popular open source software would not exist.

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Re: How have I been harmed, exactly?

For most sites that you visit ad sponsorship is irrelevant it pays pennies, which is why they are all trying to stop adblockers so that they can at least scrape a few shekels. Do you not see all the whines on the news sites employing you to take out a subscription? Almost every content creator and content creating site has lost out since they were conned into believing that ad sponsorship was a thing.

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Re: but fines cannot be a solution

> Because US authorities [will] find a European business […]

> and lob a retaliatory fine in their direction.

The difference is that the US have a real court system. Milked, bilked and amazingly abused by lawyers, granted; but what the US do not have is a political, completely unelected, body of slimy politicians in a position to play prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. Oh, and the European Commission is also the owner of the slush fund that the fine will flow into. O happy coincidence!

Born and bred European, and I cannot tell you how disgusting the whole bunch of them are, up there in Brussels.

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Paris Hilton

" behemoths can mitigate such paltry amounts "

How about Google simply close it's EU business and all the services it provides?

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Re: but fines cannot be a solution

"the US authorities find a European business"

LOL.

Please name one successful European business.

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Boffin

Re: How have I been harmed, exactly?

You are FREE to chose NOT to use Googles Free services.

just use a different search engine.

How about using an EU companies search engine....if there are any.

It's simple. EU needs other people's money.

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Mushroom

Re: but fines cannot be a solution

VW fined for circumventing US Emissions.

Deutsche Bank Pay $7.2 Billion for Misleading Investors in its Sale of Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities.

Big difference.

How many times has EU "Fined" (extorted) money from US software/service companies?

Dozens and more.

Microsoft NEVER prevented users from installing and using Netscape...yet EU fined MS because IE was default browser. Are EU residents so stupid...or do they just not understand FREEDOM of choice?

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Headmaster

Re: "wonderful Google"

My lack of outrage at something that has zero impact on my life (or anyone else's life, for that matter, beyond a handful of companies I have no interest in) is not somehow equivocal to an undying devotion to the company that supposedly harmed them. Quite the opposite, in fact, I find fanboyism a rather odd affliction. I fail to understand why anyone would have any interest in the success or failure of somebody else's business.

Equally, I find it very odd that Google should be fined vast sums for something that is, it seems to me, quite trivial, especially when there are far greater corporate crimes that cause significantly more harm to more people (or indeed something that could genuinely be characterised as harm of any sort, at least of the sort that actually matters).

As with any other product or service, if I have an actual need for it then I'll go looking for it. Having them shoved in my face in an unsolicited manner is something I'd describe as abuse, specifically spam. The fact that Google apparently failed to spam me with third party services I have no interest in is something I actually consider a benefit.

Moreover, I really don't see how it can be legally incumbent upon Google, or any other company, to spend money promoting competitors' services. That's just bizarre, frankly.

But anyway, I'm pretty sure the whole point of competition law is to protect consumers, and, like I said, I'm struggling to see how I or any other consumer has genuinely been harmed by Google's billion-euro crime.

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Re: but fines cannot be a solution

Microsoft NEVER prevented users from installing and using Netscape

I believe that, on more than one occasion, updates that were installed on users machines via the usual patching process decided to set IE back to the default browser. That right there is a breach. The user made their "FREEDOM of choice" selection and MS decided "no thanks".

MS were a massive abuser of monopoly power especially when it came to PC manufacturers installing the OS by default - have a little read through history of the shit they pulled for that to occur.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Possible solution

"They are also free to pull out of China, where they are treated far more badly than in the EU, but funnily enough they are willing to put up with that, too."

Google did pull out of China. Packed up and left rather than turn over data to the Chinese gov't. All of the Google bashers should consider that fact... how many other companies in the world would have turned away billions bc they did like what the gov't was up to in a particular country? The vast majority of businesses would have given the gov't whatever they wanted for access to the market.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How have I been harmed, exactly?

"Do you not see all the whines on the news sites employing you to take out a subscription? Almost every content creator and content creating site has lost out since they were conned into believing that ad sponsorship was a thing."

Depends on who we are talking about when we say "content creator." If we are talking about El Reg, it is definitely a positive to have ad sponsorship as they would likely have not existed in print form... or would have had a small circulation in a limited geo. Likewise with all of the smaller publishers. You can do very nicely if you are a few people with a site with ads.

If we are talking about News Corp (giant multi-national right wing media corporation), yeah, they hate this Google ad sponsorship stuff. They made way more money when there were about 6 places to get the news (giant media corps) and they had direct ad relationships.

That's one of the best parts about Google ad sponsored content. It works well for the little guy, who would not have had a publication in the 70s or 80s at all. It works poorly for the News Corps of the world who used to dominate media and limit news and information sources.

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Trollface

Pesky Euros

'But in two years time when we have made 'Britain Great Again' won't we be able to levy even much bigger, faster proper sterling fines to be paid in used threepenny bits to the BoE in person?

Or possibly not? Discuss.

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Trollface

Re: Pesky Euros

Pip pip. and if they don't pay up, we'll send a gunboat.

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Big Brother

Re: Pesky Euros

Our fines will be stronger and more stable

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Trollface

Re: Pesky Euros

No, we'll be too busy giving Google sweetheart tax breaks and other big business friendly "advantages"

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Re: Pesky Euros

No, we'll be too busy giving Google sweetheart tax breaks and other big business friendly "advantages"

Are you seriously suggesting 'Ard Man David Davis is going to settle for anything less than a 30 bob note?

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Re: Pesky Euros

Pip pip. and if they don't pay up, we'll send a the gunboat.

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Re: Pesky Euros

Pip pip. and if they don't pay up, we'll send a the gunboat.

Except that since the deal with the DUP there isn't enough money for the guns so it'll have to be Regents Park Paddling pool's finest unarmed pedalo*.

* Credit Alan Coren and John Bird.

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Re: Pesky Euros

Pip pip. and if they don't pay up, we'll send a gunboat.

Even if we have to borrow one from our friends in the US or Saudi Arabia..

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Re: Pesky Euros

"Except that since the deal with the DUP"

Already sorted. The price for the I'm-Legally-Allowed-Here cards will be £286 each. How do I calculate this? Easy. One billion quid to the DUP, divided by three and a half million foreigners. Sorted.

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Re: Pesky Euros

"One billion quid to the DUP, divided by three and a half million foreigners."

You are assuming that these foreigners will be willing to pay. Many won't, which will push up the price of the cards, so many more won't, until eventually the one who really wants to stay is stiffed for a cool DUP for the bit of card they need.

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Re: Pesky Euros

"You are assuming that these foreigners will be willing to pay."

I wasn't aware that legislation was optional (except for the wealthy). Many have already paid for a useless thing, and will be expected to pay some more.

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Re: Pesky Euros

So that's what our spanking new aircraft carrier is for...

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Anonymous Coward

That is just the shopping

There is the Android fine to follow.

And suddenly it's day again.

The sun is in the east

Even though the day is done.

Two suns in the sunset...

The knitted elephant lady has gone nuclear this time.

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Anonymous Coward

Ouch!

Oh well, even more advertising shoved down the throats of all of us will soon pay that piddling little amount.

Google? Just say no (like Drugs)

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