The Sunday Telegraph reports that the EU is poised to fine Google an EU record ~€3b for “web search monopoly abuse” and that “Google will be banned from continuing to manipulate search results to favour itself and harm rivals.”
Assuming this occurs in the reported June-July timeframe, and just like the EU’s 2015 Statement of Objections charged, the long-term ramifications for Google will be much broader and more serious than most appreciate.
That’s because Google has been so masterful in managing public, media and investor expectations that this day would never arrive, (because Google had done nothing wrong and Google was on the right side of competition in offering free, high-quality, and innovative services that benefited consumers); and that it was really EU regulators who were in the wrong because they were protectionists who were also “wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics.”
Why is the pending outcome here so problematic for Google?
First, Google has long maintained it is not a monopoly and has done nothing wrong, critical premises undergirding the public’s trust in Google, its algorithms, the objectivity of its search results, and its brands.
The EU’s pending decision per the Statement of Objections, will rule that Google “has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages…” and that “Google has a dominant position in providing general online search services throughout the EEA, with market shares above 90% in most EEA countries.”
Simply, the EU will be ruling as a matter of law that Google is in fact a monopoly that has done wrong.
Second, what’s different here is this will be the first official search antitrust conviction of Google in the world, and it will be for abusing its search dominance to the detriment of consumers, competition and innovation.