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 …

Anonymous Coward

Re: Tax Dodging

Dear HMRC,

Please feel free to join in the Act. I'm sure that there must be some incriminating documents at the Alphabet (ex nokia ) place just off the M3 in Farnborough. Make the likes of Google play proper tax from the day we leave the EU. They won't be able to hide then. That might get the NHS that missing £huge sum promised by Darling Nigel F before the vote.

If you can't tax these companies like you screw UK based ones into the ground at the merest hint of any wrongdoing, then why the heck are we leaving the EU anyway?

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Re: Tax Dodging

The alphabet place in farnborough <> google. They're a car leasing firm.

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Re: Tax Dodging

Most UK companies (of decent size / with good evasive accountants) pay very little tax, it's only the smaller companies without corrupt accountants bouncing cash around via offshore trusts, loans, franchises etc that pay anything approaching reasonable tax.

UK taxation (be it personal or business) only hits the "poor" - your rich individuals or companies, get the tax evasion accountancy specialists to screw the UKs tax receipts.

(Yes I know the accountants will use weasel words like tax efficiency, avoidance) and say evasion is only for "illegal" things, but as UK tax rules have so many millions of lines of regulations, and hence umpteen loopholes, then the line between efficiency & evasion is minimal, as the "efficiencies" are against the spirit of the law, even if they weedle a technicality to make it "legal").

It's very wring when there have been years where many individuals on PAYE have paid more in a tax year than Starbucks

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Re: Tax Dodging

"then why the heck are we leaving the EU anyway?"

Because the "real elite" (think of media moguls and owners/editors of certain Tory friendly newspapers) didn't want the EU to pry into their tax evasion?

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Mushroom

Re: The aftermath will be interesting

Guts?

IMO, The EU is just finding excuses to get their hands on other peoples money.

I'd like to see Google shut down all it's free services and lay off all it's EU employees (ie EU Taxpayers).

Let the EU come up with it's own.....since they can't seem to do it still.

Where are the EU competitors? On holiday or off for the rest of the day I suppose.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The aftermath will be interesting

The EU is constantly doing this sort of grandstanding. Hardly the first time.

What are the odds that if Google was a German company the EU would have an issue... or would they throw a parade in their honor as all that is good and brave innovators? Not saying they are specifically targeting them because they are American, just saying they would definitely not be targeting them if they were from the EU.

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Anonymous Coward

Google are uncompetitive in a number of ways but I'm in two minds about this one. If I search for holidays I get search results with paid for ads showing me companies selling holidays at the top and on the side.

If I search for a product I get paid for ads showing me that product at the top and/or the side, but this time it also includes a picture and a price.

So is it the fact it has a picture and a price, is it that companies selling things shouldn't be able to advertise on Google search, or the fact that there is a little grey link below which states "More on Google" which would take me to Google Shopping?

I don't really care too much about Google shopping as long as Google isn't forced to have those crappy meta search shopping engines dominating every search through their SEO tactics - which was making Google Search unusable when trying to find information or reviews rather than buy a product.

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If you search for our village, you quite rightly get the most popular searches, but wait whats that?

A huge big section on the right hand side, showing Google maps, the Google reviews and Google+ profile? So that's the 3 very old reviews, despite masses more up to date ones ones on Trip Advisor, the Google+ profile that until recently had 1 single post, yet ignores the very active Facebook profiles...

Hmmmm

Yes we can rig the result by stuffing the Google+ and Reviews with posts, but it's hardly the point.

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Anonymous Coward

Well, this is about shopping not reviews, so it seems unrelated to this particular complaint.

However I would say Tripadvisor is much bigger than Google for reviews of places and holidays so it would seem that Google aren't getting a significant advantage when the alternative products are much better.

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Go

It's not so much that Google are showing pictures for what you've searched or the link that is the Problem here, but that it is those pictures with associated links are for links which Google has been paid to Show. AND they take up MOST of your Screen real estate. The actual best product and price for what you've searched (and it's associated link) is more then likely two thirds of the way down your Screen (or even off your Screen), and is most likely only a bit of text and so easily missed. If you've removed the paid Advertising, then it would be at number one, as it is the best link.

That is the Problem. Google have positioned themselves as the world's search engine. But because of a little thing called competition and antitrust laws, they Need to Play fair, and that means giving equal space and time in results to those that have paid them and those that dont...

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Anonymous Coward

So Google should be allowed to have sponsored/paid links around their search results? That's ridiculous - if that is the finding of the EU then it shows how barmy they are.

Free links are free, or a company can pay for sponsored links. As long as the paid links aren't hidden inside the organic links then this is the generally accepted business model.

If I start a new company selling widgets then just because they are the best widget ever (IMHO) doesn't mean that Googel should actively send me to the top of all links just because I say so. I have t build my reputation and my website and content along with a bit of White Hat SEO. If I want to skip that and pay Google money for a sponsored link then I can also do that and go in their sponsored area - it's been like that since almost the beginning of Google and most search engines.

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Anonymous Coward

you must be a student voter for corbyn who actually believes uni fees will be re-funded

Google have positioned themselves as the world's search engine. But because of a little thing called competition and antitrust laws, they Need to Play fair, and that means giving equal space and time in results to those that have paid them and those that dont..."

Am sorry but what a load of absolute twaddle

It's a private service, they can fund it as they see fit through advertising or making you pay a monthly subscription if you would be willing to pay. If you don;t like their ads you can use another service, also ad supported but with less users so less advertising.

To my knowledge, there isn't a premium paid for search service out there with no ads.

Seems to me like the EU is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted as usual, just as with microsoft.

Currently google lets retailers buy ads in google shopping on a cpc basis just the same as adwords except the advertiser has to provide even more structured data .. google shopping is not a price comparison site, it's a filterable db of paid shopping ads from retailers and brand owners who sell direct.

However, back in the day, google shopping was free to merchants to upload their product dbs to so i guess you could argue in 2008/9 when google shopping was not all paid ads, they were abusing their position to promote their own price comparison service over competitors'. Some years ago they changed their approach and this is now all biddable cpc ads. I struggle to see the anitrust case there today.

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"If I start a new company selling widgets then just because they are the best widget ever (IMHO) doesn't mean that Googel should actively send me to the top of all links just because I say so."

But it's ok for Google to start a widget business that sells poor quality widgets and put themselves at the top of the search results? Because that's what they're being fined for.

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Anonymous Coward

"But it's ok for Google to start a widget business that sells poor quality widgets and put themselves at the top of the search results? Because that's what they're being fined for."

No they aren't they are putting paid links from third parties at the top of the results. Google don't sell any of the products that appear in the shopping links or make any of those products (unless you specifically search for something like a Chromecast).

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"..which was making Google Search unusable when trying to find information or reviews rather than buy a product."

Which is why I do most information hunting on wiki first...

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Anonymous Coward

Sellable reputation

"... along with a bit of White Hat SEO."

"White" because it serves search engines in the way they expect? For fairness? Not really.

There's nothing specifically *black about me adding the words "shop here (sic-whatever)" once a day to my never ending list, just to make sure bots see new content. Yet, crackloads of bots trolling the web looking for content aren't specifically designed *white either.

Is this a simple chicken-egg question? Has an attempt been made to actually remove survival of the fittest from information processing? Sounds like propaganda at best.

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Mushroom

No one is forced to use Google Search.

Where is the EU competitor to Google Search?

On holiday?

EU simply finding ways to leach other people's money.

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Anonymous Coward

Next up -Microsoft...

The regulator found that Google had abused its market dominance as a search engine "by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product,"

Microsoft are constantly trying to force me to use Edge and Bing, just because I use Windows... How is that ANY different?

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Re: Next up -Microsoft...

"Microsoft are constantly trying to force me to use Edge and Bing, just because I use Windows... How is that ANY different?"

Microsoft had their own anti-trust lawsuit from the EU years ago, where they had to give you a choice. However that's since expired, and now you're seeing a company ignoring the lessons it should've learnt the last time it pulled those tricks.

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Thumb Down

Re: Next up -Microsoft...

Point 1.

Here on El Reg one cannot possibly argue that Microsoft's sins get a free pass. Just look at any thread connected to any article at all concerning what Redmond are doing.

Point 2.

Have you forgotten how the EU regulators reacted when Microsoft fucked up with regard to their agreement over how browser choice should be presented within the European market? Redmond got slapped (deservedly) with an enormous fine.

Point 3.

Your post was irrelevant "whataboutery".

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Re: Next up -Microsoft...

"Microsoft are constantly trying to force me to use Edge and Bing, just because I use Windows."

Odd, my default is Firefox and I also have SRWare Iron running. My home pages are Startpage on all my browsers.

So how exactly are they forcing you to use it?

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WTF?

Re: Next up -Microsoft...

Point 3.

M$ are doing a similar thing TODAY. Forcing Edge and even intercepting local searches to Bing. The have not learned anything except that if you break the law you have a few years to benefit from your crime and so called big fine will still see you in profit. That is why they will always pull that shit.

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Re: Next up -Microsoft...

In what way are they "forcing Edge". I was asked once if I wanted it to be my default browser. I said no. They never asked me again. Such a bizarre comment . ..

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Re: Next up -Microsoft...

"Microsoft had their own anti-trust lawsuit from the EU years ago, where they had to give you a choice. However that's since expired, and now you're seeing a company ignoring the lessons it should've learnt the last time it pulled those tricks."

From July 2012, Microsoft "forgot" to offer browser choice

According to this El Reg article the browser choice was supposed to go live in March 2010, but neither version of Windows 7 I bought later that year actually contained that choice.

P.S. When the "browser ballot" finally arrived, the choices were well out of date.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Next up -Microsoft...

You are obviouly not using Windows 10S then. Edge and bing are the only game in town.

{Happy Linux/MacOS user here so let the hatred begin}

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Re: Next up -Microsoft...

"In what way are they "forcing Edge". I was asked once if I wanted it to be my default browser. I said no. They never asked me again"

Ever tried viewing a pdf document on Windows 10?

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Re: Next up -Microsoft...

"Microsoft are constantly trying to force me to use Edge and Bing, just because I use Windows... How is that ANY different?"

Yes, other market abuses are available. But why do you expect a news article to deal with other issues which aren't in the news today (and if they were would have their own article)?

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Re: Next up -Microsoft...

They aren't... you can install another browser, just like you can scroll right past google shopping.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Next up -Microsoft...

Are you seriously suggesting that Windows 10S will ever have a monopoly?

Also isn't there precedent for this? Doesn't iOS force you to use Safari.

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Re: Next up -Microsoft...

It's not different but it is Whataboutism.

see also https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/tu-quoque

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WTF?

Re: Next up -Microsoft... @Adam 52

"Ever tried viewing a pdf document on Windows 10?"

Yes. And?

Edge has a capability to show PDF documents and is the default PDF handler in vanilla Windows installation. I'm sure there is no current popular OS available that can't handle PDF's upon installation via a (web) browser.

In Windows 10 (and others) If you have installed a software the is able to show PDF docs, e.g. Chrome/Acrobat/Firefox, then you can make it the default application for PDFs with the "set default programs" widget in Control Panel.

There is no conspiracy.

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Bronze badge

Re: Next up -Microsoft...

Because if you use Windows 10, you will be finding Microsoft helpfully ignoring your preference, every now and again resetting your privacy settings, and forcing their own browser and search via start menu search...

Try it out, run the latest win10 with swiron (or any browser) with all protocol and type handler's set to your default. The use start menu search for something. It will open in edge and bing. Totally ignoring your choice...

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Stop

Re: Next up -Microsoft...

Microsoft use dirty tricks on win10 to route traffic via edge and bing (and in turn attempt to set defaults back we malware style accidental clicks) REGARDLESS OF YOUR BROWSER DEFAULT AND SEARCH DEFAULT.

I get a call every other week from the mother in law saying the internet doesn't work properly, she ended up with crap edge bing again, and I have to set it all back. They play on unsuspecting punters to just give up eventually..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Next up -Microsoft...

"Microsoft are constantly trying to force me to use Edge and Bing, just because I use Windows... How is that ANY different?"

Agree, when the regulators did nothing about Microsoft, they lost all credibility and any action they take looks arbitrary... Microsoft actively put down their competitors, e.g. Netscape and Lotus. Microsoft is currently injecting Bing in Windows, which you cannot change... and I guarantee you that no one would have selected Bing "on the merits", as the EU puts it. If they are going to apply these regulations, apply them evenly. It seems that it the results are just based on how good your connections are in the EU and what the backlash will be.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Next up -Microsoft...

"Redmond got slapped (deservedly) with an enormous fine."

Yeah, for browser choice.... not Windows or Office.

The thing that bugs me about this is that with Windows (prior to mobile and to some extent today) you had no choice but to use Windows, especially if you were a business. You needed to buy it at whatever price you were told to pay. That isn't at all true of Google today. If you don't like what they are doing, you can switch to Bing or Yahoo (brace yourself) and never use any Google service again. How many businesses are still forced to use Windows and pay through the nose for it? Whether they like it or not, they are going to use Windows 10. You don't have to, in theory or practice, use any Google service. There are viable options which you could switch to in 10 seconds and never look back.... Google wins because it is the best service, not due to lack of alternatives... and Google is who they go after? Just because it is fashionable for the EU to go after Google... if they went after Microsoft everyone would say "where were you on this 20 years ago?"

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Re: Next up -Microsoft...

Your post was irrelevant "whataboutery".

Commonly brought up and argued in courts. It's called "Precedent". If a court rules in favour of one party, then later in another case someone can point to that as an indication of how the court can be expected to respond, eg "Well you let MS get away with their anti-competive behaviour".

No, not particularly a fan of it, much prefer a case to be argued on its merits. It can be helpful to a judge to see how someone else considered a similar case though.

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Holmes

"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: Bollocks.

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Anonymous Coward

Translation: Bollocks.

Wow! Google Translate works!

:)

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Information Integration. How now?

The Google Map snippets are next I guess.

If the object sought consists mostly of metadata that is best displayed in a different manner (location = map, product category = product list) and other people make money from providing an interface to this data type (map providers, product comparison providers) then Google cannot integrate their metadata view directly into your search result as it favours their metadata provider (i.e. themselves).

The problem, is nobody else can integrate their metadata search engine into Google's results. Nor is it entirely sane to demand it be possible. That leaves only one option: This system may not exist. Anywhere.

So it is more or less forbidden for the public to have an integrated search system that morphs the result to match the best display form for the data form found.

If the EU had provided a way to still make such a system possible I wouldn't be quite so annoyed, as the future was meant to be down that road, but now it's roadblocked. Forbidding unfairly integrated data assistants probably also has implications for Google Home/Alexa and those other speakerthings.

I hope someone is tracking how much money all these competing shopping sites now make after the Google-integrated results are canned. I somehow doubt it'll be a Billion bucks...

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Big Brother

The EU and Google are very much alike, perhaps they should get married as they deserve each other.

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Erm

Assuming I am reading this right (and I hope I am not), google (a private business) is being fined because it shows its own products on its own website when people choose to use its search feature? Is that seriously what is being complained about?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm

You may want to consider how the word "monopoly" changes things a little. (Edit: the phrase used is "abuse of market dominance" rather than monopoly)

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Re: Erm

I'm no fan of Google in some ways, but I agree with this comment.

Tesco advertises its own petrol stations in its supermarket car park too. Should they be told to give equal prominence to BP et. al. and other supermarkets?

The reasoning seems to be that because "everybody" goes to Google first, they have acquired some responsibility to promote their competitors.

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Re: Erm

It's very simple. You can legally have a monopoly. If you're the best at doing something and so everyone goes to you, it would be totally unfair to regulate your monopoly out of existence. So you get to keep it. After all the aim of this law is to protect the consumer, and we can assume that they all went to you for a reason.

What you're not allowed to do is to use that monopoly (market dominance) in order to enter other markets. At which point it all becomes rather murky, as to what's being normally competitive and what's unfair competition.

You don't need 100% control of a market to be defined as a monopoly, it can be less than 50%, it's about your market power.

This case is also a bit weird of course, in that Google don't charge for search - and so the customers are the advertisers. Except that the ads are only going to get seen if people use search.

The Microsoft example was a lot clearer. They were considered to have a monopoly with Windows, and were using that to push their browser. Even though Netscape had a nice business charging for a browser. Not that the law intervened in any kind of timescale that would have saved Netscape.

A more traditional monopolistic abuse might be Vanderbuilt, in the late 19th Century. He built a nice railway that was used by a bunch of steel mills. Then he decided to go into the steel industry. And those mill owners were asked to sell their mills to him at a substantial discount. If they didn't, his railway would stop doing business with them, and they'd go bust.

Or say BT, who were charging about 50p a minute for daytime telephone calls in the early 1980s. Because your alternative was not to be able to make calls.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm

I've never really been aware of Google shopping. As a result of this article I tried it out. It's really good. I found in 30 seconds exactly what had taken me an hour to find this morning with regular Google searches.

Same item, same online vendor and same price.

I'm a convert .... and the EU want to ban it .... erm?

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Re: Erm

Agree dubious as plenty of search engines out there,so not anything like a monopoly, just that lots of people choose Google as the best of a bad bunch (though search being so bad is mainly down to SEO, link spam operatives etc all trying to game the system, Google, Bing etc. can finetune their algorithms like mad but dross still gets in searches).

Though when I search stuff I might wnat to buy on Google I get Amazon, Currys, Argos, ebay,Tesco, review sites etc.(depending on what I search for)

There is a Shopping link on Google, is that what the EU mean - I would expect that to be Google oriented (just like if I search on Amazon I do not expect results from Tesco)

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Re: Erm

No the EU don't want to ban it, but they've been taken in by to the whining of dodgy link farmers, so now you'll also have to wade through pages of results which lead to crap sites which don't even have the products you are looking for.

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Re: Erm

"What you're not allowed to do is to use that monopoly (market dominance) in order to enter other markets. At which point it all becomes rather murky, as to what's being normally competitive and what's unfair competition."

The BBC has all but destroyed local newspapers and radio stations. They advertise only their own products on TV, radio and podcasts. They copy their competitor's products and compete with them (time slots) for no other reason than to disrupt their business (they get the same revenue whether they show a programme at 8 o'clock on Sunday evening or 3 o'clock on Thursday). I'm forced to pay for this, even if I never watch BBC.

I look forward to someone fining the BBC for these anti-competitive practices.

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Re: Erm

This is exactly what I am thinking. Google doesn't owe anyone anything, it's up to the consumer to make a choice as to whether to use Google's search engine or not. If the consumer isn't happy with the range of products or the prices, they are welcome to go elsewhere.

I've never heard anyone complain about their shopping experience with Google.

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Re: Erm

Google doesn't owe anyone anything, it's up to the consumer to make a choice as to whether to use Google's search engine or not.

Indeed for all users of Microsoft Windows, if they use Google it is because they have changed the default search engine available to them, and must therefore be by choice.

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