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EU hits Google with a record antitrust fine of $2.7 billion

CNBC logo CNBC 27-06-2017 Karen Gilchrist

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Google has been fined a record 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) after EU antitrust regulators concluded the first stage of their three-pronged probe into the world's most popular search engine.

The fine, which targets the company's shopping business, is the largest doled out by Brussels for a monopoly abuse case and follows a seven-year-long investigation into the search group's practices.

Investigations were triggered after the European Commission received dozens of complaints from U.S. and European competitors, who claimed that the company abused its search market dominance to give its Google Shopping service an advantage over other retailers and create a monopoly over consumers.

Though the company was charged with distorting internet results by the EU competition authority in April 2015 it has not before faced fines for an abuse of this nature and marks something of a landmark for the way technology companies are regulated.

The business has been given 90 days to cease these practices.

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EU regulatory guidelines stipulate that such fines are capped at up to 10 percent of the company's global turnover. As part of parent company Alphabet, Google could have been slapped with a charge of up to $9 billion based on its 2016 turnover. While the final bill fell short of this, it eclipses the 1 billion euro ($1.45 billion) fine doled out to chipmaker Intel in 2009. It is also higher than estimates cited by sources in the lead up to the verdict.

Google shares fall

Alphabet's share price dropped 1.4 percent on the announcement in premarket trade. Google will now be entitled to appeal the decision to the European Court of Justice.

Regulators are continuing to investigate two other charges, including whether the Android mobile operating system is being used to promote other Google products at an unfair disadvantage to rivals.

The ruling may also open the way for private litigants to seek compensation for damages at national courts.

Google, which makes most of its money from advertising, has argued that the European Commission's theory " just doesn't fit the reality of how most people shop online."

"They reach merchant websites in many different ways: via general search engines, specialist search services, merchant platforms, social media sites, and online ads served by various companies," Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, has written.

"And of course, merchants are reaching consumers directly like never before. On the mobile web — and more than half of Europe's Internet traffic is mobile these days — dedicated apps are the most common way for consumers to shop."

— Reuters contributed to this report.

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