Google may soon have to shell out £2.3bn to the European Commission for “abusing” its monopoly on the market by promoting its own shopping service at the expense of rivals.
The EU believes Google’s search results have been manipulated to return shopping results that favour itself and harm competitors, and officials in Brussels are apparently set to wrap up a seven-year investigation into the company’s search practices next month before issuing the levy.
Sources close to the situation said officials aimed to make an announcement before the summer break and could make their move as early as next month, although cautioned that Google’s bill for crushing competition online had not been finalised.
The maximum possible is around £5.1bn, or a tenth of Google’s total annual sales.
Margarethe Vestager, the Competition Commissioner, on Friday raised the possibility of further charges in other specialised web search markets such as travel information and maps.
Legal sources said the fine it faces over shopping comparison is likely to take account of the fact that Google abused its monopoly on general web search over many years. The European Commission may also seek to make an example of the company over changes to its algorithms during the investigation that made it even harder for competitors to thrive, as well as what some officials now see as its delaying tactics during the investigation.
Google has declined to comment. It could choose to fight the fine and new search rules in the European Court of Justice.
Google is also subject to headlines this morning relating to its controversial tax affairs in the UK.