Now at the end of the seven-year investigation of the company’s dominant search engine, officials in Brussels could give Google a €3bn fine for monopoly abuse within weeks. It is believed that the European Commission is aiming to hit Google with a record-breaking fine, which would surpass the toughest anti-trust punishment to date, a €1.1bn fine on the microchip giant Intel.
Sources disclosed that officials will make an announcement before the summer break. It could also be as early as June, although the Google’s bill for crushing competition online had not been finalised. The maximum possible is around €6.6bn, or a tenth of Google’s total annual sales.
Google has already been formally charged with wrongly promoting its own price comparison service in general search results while simultaneously relegating smaller rivals and deny their traffic. A new investigation into alleged monopoly abuse related to Google’s Android smartphone software could be soon.
Margarethe Vestager, the Competition Commissioner, raised the possibility of further charges in other specialised web search markets such as travel information and maps on Friday. Sources said the fine it faces over shopping comparison is likely to prove the fact that Google abused its monopoly on general web search over many years.
Apart from facing the heavy fine, Google will also be banned from continuing to manipulate search results to favour itself and harm rivals. The company has fiercely resisted such interference in its algorithms as it is the heart of its business, and sought to placate regulators with promotion to redesign the presentation of results, but failed.
Jaoquin Almunia, the previous Competition Commissioner, has agreed a deal on such changes without bringing formal charges, but Ms Vestager would bring a new, more aggressive style to the role.
Google refused to comment. It could choose to fight the fine and new search rules in the European Court of Justice.