Europe is once again mad at Google, but this time European regulators’ angst comes with a serious price tag: a €2.42 billion, or about $2.73 billion, fine to punish the Alphabet, Inc. (GOOG, GOOGL), subsidiary for pushing its product-search tool in its own search results.
“Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results, and demoting those of competitors” European Commission member Margrethe Vestager said in a statement Tuesday morning announcing the EC’s ruling.
Google general counsel Kent Walker wrote in a blog post that the EU didn’t understand how product search now transcends traditional web queries, citing Amazon (AMZN) in particular as “a formidable competitor.” He said Google would continue to make its case in Europe.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, however, the company predicted that it will pay the fine by the middle of the year. It shouldn’t feel much pain, with $18.1 billion in cash and cash equivalents on its books at the end of March. And with no prospect of a comparable penalty from the U.S., stateside searches probably won’t look any different anytime soon.
Not a new complaint
The EC’s complaint centers on a relatively small part of Google’s search: the illustrated ads you’ll see atop some product-centric search results. Type “Washington Nationals cap,” for instance, and Google will display a strip of listings for stores selling hats with the logo of D.C.’s baseball team.
Other search sites may also help you comparison shop, but they appear far lower in Google’s results. I saw none in several pages of results in my search for a Nats cap.