Google set to face record fine from EU

Investigation centres on it promoting its own shopping search service over those of smaller rivals

The fine for Alphabet’s Google, expected to top a previous €1.07 billion record, will skirt the usual rules that see all of the EU’s 28 commissioners discuss controversial decisions at a weekly meeting, usually on a Wednesday.

The fine for Alphabet’s Google, expected to top a previous €1.07 billion record, will skirt the usual rules that see all of the EU’s 28 commissioners discuss controversial decisions at a weekly meeting, usually on a Wednesday.

 

Google is set to face a record antitrust fine from the European Union on Tuesday for promoting its own shopping search service over those of smaller rivals, according to sources familiar with the probe that has dramatically sped up in recent days.

The fine for Alphabet’s Google, expected to top a previous €1.07 billion record, will skirt the usual rules that see all of the EU’s 28 commissioners discuss controversial decisions at a weekly meeting, usually on a Wednesday.

Instead, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager will lay out a ruling that’s been rubber-stamped by her colleagues in a so-called written procedure, said one of the sources.

The EU accelerated action on a decision in recent days. Officials who’d previously targeted a July date had brought that forward to this week, one person said. Multiple Google representatives still hadn’t been told of the EU’s timetable as of early Monday. While the EU isn’t required to inform companies, it often does so as a courtesy.

The rapid pace comes after a lengthy seven-year probe fueled by complaints from small shopping websites as well as bigger names, including News Corp, Axel Springer and Microsoft. European politicians have called on the EU to sanction Google or even break it up while US critics claim regulators are targeting successful American firms.

The EU’s investigation focuses on how Google shows searches for products, a lucrative market that links consumers to retailers. Smaller price-comparison websites say they’ve been harmed because Google’s own shopping service prominently shows photos and prices of products above search results and Google fails to show rival sites high enough in the search results to allow them to pull in any meaningful advertising revenue.

Google said it was continuing to engage constructively with the European Commission and believes “strongly that our innovations in online shopping have been good for shoppers, retailers and competition”.

- Bloomberg