The European Commission has fined Google €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) after deciding that Google Shopping is in breach of EU antitrust regulations.
Giving Google Shopping priority in Google search results over other price comparison services is “illegal” the Commission said, and has given it 90 days to “end the conduct” or face further penalties.
While the fine specifically relates to Google Shopping, it is understood that the Commission is looking at all of Google’s vertical products, which clearly brings Google Flights and Google Hotels into the firing line.
The official release about the fine says the Google Shopping decision ” is a precedent, which can be used as a framework to analyse the legality” of the other Google products.
The EC’s major concern – that Google is prioritising its own products in search results – is applicable to both Google Flights and Hotels. In a statement, ETTSA – the European trade body for online travel welcomed the decision and called on the Commission to address Google’s dominance in travel.
“Google’s conduct is significantly impacting on competition in the travel vertical, the single largest of the vertical search markets, at the expense of consumers and of Google’s competitors…We will continue to work with the Commission to ensure that Google ceases to abuse its dominance in the travel sector and to create a level playing field for its competitors while allowing Google to continue to innovate.”
The Commission statement however includes a caveat which Google’s lawyers could latch on to, in that the investigations into other products will “take account of the characteristics of each market”.
Google’s own response in an official blog post is that it “respectfully disagree with the conclusions a and will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal.”