Google and the European Union have been warring against one another for years, and the latest fight came to a dramatic close on Tuesday following the conclusion of an antitrust investigation. In a statement obtained by the New York Times, E.U. antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager declared the Silicon Valley darling would have to fork over a massive fine of $2.7 billion (€2.4 billion) and make significant changes to its current business practices abroad in order to follow the letter of Europe’s competition laws.
As the Times notes, the E.U. antitrust fine pales in comparison to Google’s annual revenue of $90 billion. Yet the amount is more than double those experts were suggesting the governing body would levy against the technology giant the day before, which suggests Vestager is essentially “[claiming] to being the Western world’s most active regulator of digital services.” After all, when addressing the matter on Tuesday, Vestager explained, “In Europe, companies must compete on the merits regardless if they are European or not. What Google has done is illegal under E.U. antitrust rules.” Some more:
[In] recent years, Ms. Vestager has demanded that Apple repay $14.5 billion in back taxes in Ireland, opened an investigation into Amazon’s tax practices in Europe and raised concerns about Facebook’s gathering and handling of data. The companies deny any wrongdoing.
In targeting the activities of these digital giants, experts say, European authorities are laying down a marker for more hands-on control of how the digital world operates.
The fine of $2.7 billion is noteworthy, and the precedent the E.U. hopes to set with it will surely affect future digital business practices in Europe and the potential antitrust investigations they engender. That said, the Times adds that interest in the money may quickly fall to Google’s coming battle to defend its “crown jewel” — the search algorithm on which the entire company was initially founded. The kind of regulation the E.U. seeks to employ may include access to such secrets, which can expose Google’s money-maker to the prying eyes of its competitors.
(Via New York Times)