back to article I don't hate US tech, snarls Euro monopoly watchdog chief – as Google slapped with €1.49bn megafine

The European Commission has concluded its third probe into Google's business practices by whacking it with a €1.49bn fine. The third investigation dealt with advertising broker services that Brussels said foreclosed competition and raised prices for website operators. Google stopped these practices in July 2016 – after the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spank 'm!

    Actually, what's going to happen to that cash?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "what's going to happen to that cash?"

      Probably contribute to what I'm told is their rather nice wine cellar.

      However you are expecting Google just to get out their chequebook. I rather suspect the Google lobbyists are already knocking on doors in Brussels as we speak with the aim to get the fine watered down.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: "what's going to happen to that cash?"

        It's a cost of doing business so is deducted from their tax (snigger)

        Basically fining a foreign company is a way of transferring money from their home government to yours - it's why it's so popular.

      2. ratfox Silver badge

        Re: "what's going to happen to that cash?"

        Even if they don't dispute facts, I suspect they might appeal the fine. If they are just able to cut the €1.49bn fine by only 10%, it's already worth paying a jolly band of lawyers for a few years.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: "what's going to happen to that cash?"

        Probably contribute to what I'm told is their rather nice wine cellar

        Fine wine (if kept correctly) is a pretty good investment - unless you drink it of course. Much like rare whisky (I nearly wept when I saw how much my long-deceased bottle of "As we get it" whisky would have been worth if I hadn't drunk it..)

    2. andrew_waters

      Re: Spank 'm!

      I wondered the same thing which led me to http://ec.europa.eu/budget/explained/budg_system/financing/fin_en.cfm

      Notable:

      > The budget also has other sources of revenue, e.g.:

      > - taxes on EU staff salaries

      > - contributions from non-EU countries to certain programmes

      > - fines on companies for breaching competition laws, etc.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spank 'm!

      If that's what the cash is being spent on, how exclusive a bdsm club are they spending it in?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: Spank 'm!

        When I lived in Brussels, all the Eurocrats appeared to be into swingers parties, rather than BDSM. Or at least that was all the stuff that was mentioned in the expat circles I moved in.

        There is a lot of basement space in the Berlayment though. I think they've got 3 levels of basement carpark, and room for 5,000 cars. Surely with Brexit they'll need a few less spaces and could build a bijou dungeonette down there?

        Now I'm back in Blighty, I'm an ex-expat - or a "pat" for short. Penguin icon for lack of black and white cats.

    4. N2 Silver badge

      Re: Spank 'm!

      More lubrication for the EU gravy train

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what's going to happen to that cash?

      "reinvest the antitrust fines levied directly into European Commission antitrust resources and staff to more swiftly investigate and effectively deter future violations."

      You had to read the article to the end to get to that bit. What a surprise! The first to comment didn't bother doing that.....

      1. Bonzo_red

        Re: You had to read the article to the end to get to that bit

        No, that is the (wet) dream of Mr. Weber, although why governments around the world should reinvest fines levied directly into the Commission antitrust resources I do not know.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shame the UK doesnt have laws to deal with monopolies for the general public's benefit

    Plenty of laws to benefit the monopolies though

    1. Paul 195

      Re: Shame the UK doesnt have laws to deal with monopolies for the general public's benefit

      Well of course, at the moment it benefits from all the rules that it helped draft as a valued member of the EU. In the future, who knows?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Shame the UK doesnt have laws to deal with monopolies for the general public's benefit

        In the future (short term) those rules stay on our books and the Competion and Markets Authority will enforce them - instead of handing the bigger cases over to the EU, as they do now. For example, didn't they just stop the Sainsbury's Asda merger?

        Actually one consequence of us leaving the EU might not be our rules getting watered down, but the EU's. The German and French governments are still complaining about the Commisison stopping the Siemens Alstrom merger, and are suggesting changing EU rules to allow the creation of "European Champions" - in order to supposedly compete better globally.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shame the UK doesnt have laws to deal with monopolies for the general public's benefit

          "Competition and Markets Authority will enforce them".

          LOL

  3. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Joke

    So what's next?

    Will the US president jump into the argument and, with an about face, suddenly start defending Google?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: So what's next?

      No but he might decide that Boeing needs some help against those communist Airbus

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: So what's next?

        I doubt it - Boeing backed Hillery in the last presidential election - that's something that he'll never forget.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: So what's next?

          Just look from where his acting Secretary of Defense comes from...

          "Patrick M. Shanahan became the Acting Secretary of Defense on January 1, 2019. Prior to this assignment, he served as the 33rd Deputy Secretary of Defense, appointed on July 19, 2017. The Washington state native holds two advanced degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and spent more than 30 years at Boeing" [emphasis mine]

          https://www.defense.gov/Our-Story/Meet-the-Team/Acting-Secretary-of-Defense/

          Boeing always try to be on the "right side" - even if they though Clinton could have become president, they changed course far quicker than an F-15 could... never underestimate the maneuverability of some executives.

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Trump never forgets anything - except to do his fucking job, that is.

          And whatever it is he said yesterday if it's inconvenient today.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Time for Googlexit?

    Vote for Google to leave now!

    Oh wait, wrong exit.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Devil

      Re: Time for Googlexit?

      Couldn't the Commission spend the €8bn they had in fines off them, and create their own rival search engine called gEUgle?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Time for Googlexit?

        "Couldn't the Commission spend the €8bn they had in fines off them, and create their own rival search engine called gEUgle?"

        Yes, whatever did happen to the much-vaunted Quaero?

        Sadly, it appeared to end up as nothing more than a bureaucracy-heavy means to subsidize researchers?

        (Nothing at all wrong with *investing* in research, but it would have been nice if something useful had actually come out of it.)

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaero

        1. Nick Kew Silver badge

          Re: Time for Googlexit?

          Playing MeToo with an incumbent like Google, and with rules that preclude doing it as well as them regardless of how good your researchers are, is not a productive use of research funds.

          There's lots of good research around Europe that would've made better recipients for funds.

        2. Citizen of Nowhere

          Re: Time for Googlexit?

          Quaero received public funding from the French government, not the EU. As the article you link to states in its second sentence.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Time for Googlexit?

            "Quaero received public funding from the French government, not the EU. As the article you link to states in its second sentence."

            Yes, but was it not originally conceived as supposed to be a multi-country project? It sounds as though Germany then diverted its attention elsewhere, and presumably the idea of attracting other partners in other EU countries didn't quite happen.

            (My point actually was that you can't try to artificially encourage someone to invent a new and better search engine, but, on the other hand, if someone already has some innovative ideas but needs funding to help that idea come to fruition...)

            (And we have Qwant now, anyway.)

            1. Citizen of Nowhere

              Re: Time for Googlexit?

              >My point actually was that you can't try to artificially encourage someone to invent a new and better search engine, but, on the other hand, if someone already has some innovative ideas but needs funding to help that idea come to fruition...<

              That is a good point.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Time for Googlexit?

        I think you mean Gödel - but you'll find it's incomplete.

  5. Mage Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Tip of the iceberg

    Unless EU is somehow "bought off" there will be loads more of these fines for:

    Google

    Facebook

    Microsoft

    Maybe also:

    Twitter, Verizon (Yahoo), parasitic copyright violator Pinterest

    Apple, Amazon

    The backlash has started.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tip of the iceberg

      Is Ya-OurWebsiteIsHiddenBehindThisBigGDPRBlockScreen-hoo! even worth fining these days?

      Apple, as far as I am aware, tend to stay on the right side of data protection ethical values and laws, so I expect they don't have much to worry about in that regard.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Tip of the iceberg

        But they might go along with Spotify's argument that Apple only allowing the App Store on iPhones means that the App Store is a monopoly, even though iPhones are a clear minority of overall smartphone sales.

        If they buy that argument, I imagine next we'd see ARM claim that Intel CPUs ability to only execute x86 code and not also execute ARM code constitutes a similar illegal monopoly...

    2. hellwig Silver badge

      Re: Tip of the iceberg

      Other than Microsoft and Google, has the EU acted against any other US company?

      This one seems like a legit violation. Blocking out competitors is a bad thing (ah, reminds me of the Intel/OEM collusion time period).

      I still disagree with many other judgments, such as Google being penalized for showing its own services on its own webpages. If you don't want to see Google's stuff, do NOT go to Google.com in your web browser and then search for things. And if Google is your default engine and you don't know how to change it, maybe try googling it, ah shit, you just can't win.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        Re: Tip of the iceberg

        I find a lot of this so excessive because the consumer has choice. Don't like Google? Use another company. This isn't even 1% as tedious as changing something like an energy supplier, or internet service provider.

        If you can spell "Bing" (Or DuckDuckGo personally) and use bing unobstructed, then you have access to healthy competition.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Tip of the iceberg

          Did you read where the ruling came from? Google put in its contracts with advertisers clauses that only someone in a dominant position could - exactly the types of abuses anti-trust laws are designed to forbid because they lead to monopolies and higher costs.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Tip of the iceberg

        "Other than Microsoft and Google, has the EU acted against any other US company?"

        Yes. But you need to look outside the world of IT.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tip of the iceberg

        They acted against Intel for trying to snuff out AMD. Sorry, that was actually categorized as corporatephilia .....

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Tip of the iceberg

      >The backlash has started.

      Nah, I'd say its just a modern version of bank robbery -- you go after these big companies because "that's where the money is". It would be slightly more honest to actually come out and say so rather than going all sanctimonious about 'big tech'.

      (...and yes, I happen to think that Facebook is Evil....Google might be Not So Good,....but it doesn't mean that they exist to be sponged off.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tip of the iceberg

        FTR, the fines aren't about enforcing fairness and equality.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tip of the iceberg

          "FTR, the fines aren't about enforcing fairness and equality."

          It's possible that this was done purely for the good of the EU by the EU, but it's also possible that a competitor lobbying against Google helped the process along.

          I know there was a group of high tech companies and advertisers led by a well known but significantly less popular search engine provider that was hoping the EU might decide to fine Google just as they were fined a few years before for their own indiscretions.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Tip of the iceberg

        Nah, I'd say its just a modern version of bank robbery -- you go after these big companies because "that's where the money is". It would be slightly more honest to actually come out and say so rather than going all sanctimonious about 'big tech'.

        No, it's going after companies in monopoly positions who are abusing those positions, just like the the US did back in the days of the robber barons.

    4. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Tip of the iceberg

      Yahoo really deserved it.

      That is, twenty years ago, when they were dominant in that they had all the mindshare in the media, and thus had and abused more of a monopoly than Google ever did.

      But that was then. Yahoo is no longer the same company. We don't go after companies for such historic violations except where there's a proper witch-hunt.

      1. paulll Bronze badge

        Re: Tip of the iceberg

        "had and abused more of a monopoly than Google ever did."

        I don't think that's true of any single company in history, although many have tried quite hard.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Tip of the iceberg

        In 1999 the market was far smaller and online advertising was nowhere as much as important as it is now.

  6. Dwarf Silver badge

    Surely not

    Its 1.49bn, so its not a Mega fine, its a Giga fine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surely not

      The next one will be biga.

  7. Snowy
    Joke

    Ad blockers

    You know it is the right thing to do!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ad blockers

      What's an ad?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well if the US won't reign FAANG in

    Then the EU will have to do it for them.

    The UK certainly won't be doing anything to antagonise the US for the next 40 years.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Well if the US won't reign FAANG in

      yay "taking back control" (!) We'll be the 51st state befors you know it...

      1. BigSLitleP

        Re: Well if the US won't reign FAANG in

        Time to learn "Star Mangled Spanner" and play softball. I'm already starting to use "y'all" in regular vocabulary and say "dee-fence" rather than defence. Next i'll have to spell colour without a u.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Well if the US won't reign FAANG in

          "y'all"? This Yankee will kick yer southern ass! (I've been receiving my training from a northern state!)

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Well if the US won't reign FAANG in

          Time to learn "Star Mangled Spanner"

          Ah - the one about the pride of the US space Navy that fell foul of a neutron star? All that was left was one single star-mangled spanner..

          (h/t to either Asimov or AC Clarke - I think one of them wrote that short story)

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Well if the US won't reign FAANG in

            "(h/t to either Asimov or AC Clarke - I think one of them wrote that short story)"

            ISTR (vaguely!) that it was a short story in a collection based around the Tricentennial or something like it. and I'm leaning more towards Asimov than Clarke. My Google-fu is failing though.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well if the US won't reign FAANG in

        We'll be the 51st state befors you know it...

        Shaddup and eat your chlorinated chicken and hormone-laden beef. Or our newly armed police will come round and pop a cap in yo' ass.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Well if the US won't reign FAANG in

          I think you mean SWAT teams.

          Does that mean we can have guns?

  9. Joe Gurman

    I wonder

    Good they're going after the tangled web of Googli-ism, but I have to wonder: would they be quite so hard-nosed if the Mother Ship were located in the EU and delivering ducats, er, €s into member states' coffers?

    1. paulll Bronze badge

      Re: I wonder

      The Mother Ship *is* located in the EU for tax purposes, if the EU have a problem with Google not paying taxes they need to be having a word with the Irish, not going after Google themselves.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: I wonder

      Given that more decisions are handed down on EU entities than Silicon Valley entities, I guess not...

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: I wonder

      Vestager blocked the Alstom-Siemens merger also.

      Both are are located in EU and probably pay far more taxes to member states than Google ever did.

  10. DougS Silver badge

    At some point Google will do a calculation

    On the one hand they will put the profit they make from operating in the EU.

    On the other hand they will put the fines they're paying, and the loss of worldwide profit from changing the way they conduct business everywhere else to fit EU rules.

    If they find the second number is larger, things could get interesting. Not that I don't agree that Google is clearly abusing their monopoly, but if the EU is going to be the only one enforcing it Google will have to at least consider walking away from that market. Brexit (if/when it finally happens) would help swing the scales a little in favor of a "Goo-exit" since they wouldn't lose UK revenue by pulling out of the EU.

    Is it wrong that I really want this to happen, just because it would make for fascinating reading in the comments section of El Reg for years to come?

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: At some point Google will do a calculation

      It's nof wrong of you.... Popcorn doesn't eat itself!

    2. John Jennings
      Devil

      Re: At some point Google will do a calculation

      I dont think so. The reason is that, believe it or not, Euroland does also produce content- and Google needs to index it. Its mission is to index the world, afterall. If it puts EU (then perhaps Russia, and China) in boxes to remove them - what is left for the US? North/South america, Asia and Nigerian Princes?

      1. Wandering Reader

        Re: At some point Google will do a calculation

        "and Google needs to index it."

        And so they will. However, it doesn't need to provide the searches in the EU. Vestager could always use a proxy to find out what's going on, assuming that remains legal.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Re: At some point Google will do a calculation

        Google can still index the EU even if they don't do business there in terms of selling advertising, etc. And of course making it punitive for EU citizens - if they aren't going to make money there they would geoblock Google Search, GMail etc. including on Android phones operated in the region.

        If Google has no offices or employees in the entire EU, doesn't make any money that's taxable in the EU, the EU can't touch them. They can't prevent them from indexing anymore than they could prevent Baidu from indexing EU sites despite not doing business in the EU - the sites themselves could prevent it if they so chose by blocking Google's crawler while leaving Bing etc. alone.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: At some point Google will do a calculation

      Google makes 1/3 of its revenues from the EMEA area. You can do the math...

      Anyway being this a B2B issue, Google has far more space to change how it does business in EU only - until other countries follow the EU lead, and it could happen sooner than Google would like.

      US Democrats look now far more keen on antitrust issues now...

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: At some point Google will do a calculation

        "EMEA" > "EU".

        Your 33% figure doesn't tell us how much revenue they make from the EU alone, nor does it tell us how much they'd lose in the rest of the world if they were forced to enforce EU rules worldwide because of the "what if an EU citizen elsewhere in the world conducts a search, buys an Android phone, etc." factor which they've already claimed to have the power to apply with the GDPR. Why would this be any different for EU overreach?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: At some point Google will do a calculation

          There is a market opening up for a search engine that operates from a single non-EU country with no European assets, that can ignore any EU legislation, since they have nothing to lose.

          The EU could try and block them but that would be about effective as their war on piracy.

          Unless users know how to craft specific search criteria, Google is just becoming a provider of links to adverts and near matches, rather than the razor sharp results it used to be famous for. Come to think of it, maybe Google search has just become another casualty of Google's rationalisation program.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          Re: At some point Google will do a calculation

          Do you really believe most of those revenue comes from Middle East and Africa?

          Yet frankly I can't really understand that US view of "EMEA".... although for most companies make little sense to setup ME and A HQs exactly because of the limited client base and revenues, so they get aggregated with the far larger E.

          Still, EMEA revenus are double the APAC area - so not really something you can ignore....

          (https://www.statista.com/statistics/266250/regional-distribution-of-googles-revenue/)

          Anyway, again, this has nothing to do with user interfaces and accounts - this ruling is about B2B contracts about ads sources and placements - not really a technology matter, mostly a contractual one - which already tend to be very area-specific due to different laws.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: At some point Google will do a calculation

      "Google will have to at least consider walking away from that market. "

      The EU is one of the biggest, richest markets in the world at the moment. Those fines are nowhere near reaching parity with the profits they make in the EU.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: At some point Google will do a calculation

        You must also consider the LOSS OF PROFIT in the rest of the world if they are forced to change their business practices, divest holdings, etc. to conform with EU rules. If the EU tried to force them to make changes which would cost them 25% of their worldwide profit, it would be an easy decision for them to pull out.

        Now in some cases they might be able to do business differently only within the EU, but with the EU pulling a United States and thinking their rules apply everywhere (i.e. claiming GDPR applies to EU citizens anywhere in the world, so you can't assume access to a US site from a US location is free from GDPR obligation) that's probably not going to fly.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    produce this and make £5 but sleep easy

    I use my phone to speak to people and them to me. Do some web browsing and play media, take photos and video.

    Can someone cobble together a lightweight OS for a generic 5-6 inch pile of bits fashioned into a phone please?

    Not aware of one myself as they all seem to be some version of android.

    There was some promise with wileyfox boasting of security but they got clobbered probably for that reason.

    I would imagine the battery would last days and days without the unit constantly trying to do google stuff.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: produce this and make £5 but sleep easy

      I'd recomment the old Nokia E6 - unfortunately, its software is so out of date, it doesn't even support TLS (only SSL)

      If it had uptodate software, it would be great. As it is, despite owning loads of android tablets and tv boxes (typing this one one now), the E6 with it's battery lasting a week is still my go-to phone!

      http://www.welshgit.net/misc/nokia-and-android-desktop-20190323.jpg :-)

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