Deeper problems behind Google’s 1.5 billion euro fine Special

Posted Mar 21, 2019 by Tim Sandle
Google has been fined, for the third time, by the European Union for blocking rival online search advertisers. The fine was a record 1.5 billion euros. As to how this happened and whether Google will change, a leading lawyer weighs in.
Google's search results are prized internet real estate with the US giant controlling roughly 9...
Google's search results are prized internet real estate with the US giant controlling roughly 90 percent of the search market in Europe, according to EU data
Google’s heavy fine comes after the EU undertook a competition probe which found that the company, which dominants Internet searches, had spent 10 years blocking rival online advertisers. This makes the fines imposed by the EU to Google over the past two years have now reached €8.2 billion, each relating to European antitrust breaches.
Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, told the Financial Times: “The misconduct lasted over 10 years and denied other companies the possibility to compete on the merits and to innovate — and consumers the benefits of competition.”
Furthermore, by preinstalling its Chrome browser and Google search app on to Android devices, the Alphabet had an unfair advantage over its rivals, according to EU officials.
Commenting on the fine, Jonathan Compton, who is a partner at the London-based law firm DMH Stallard, said of the record fine imposed on Google: "The truth is that many regard Google and Facebook as out of control. The deeper problem is what to do about it.”
This is in the context of very little apparent action from social media companies and Internet service providers: “What results from this quandary is that Google and Facebook continue to attract larger and larger fines for their breaches of Data Protection and Competition/ Anti Trust laws…they have done nothing to stop it from continuing to engage in anti-competitive practices.”
Compton finds it strange that, with Google specifically, the neither Google nor Alphabet have taken action: “This is basic stuff, frankly, and this writer is surprised that Google, which can afford the best and the brightest, engaged in this type of “rule 1 – do not break” behaviour.”
This is perhaps because, Compton notes, that although the fines imposed by the European Union are very large, they represent only a tiny proportion of the profits generated by Google. The new fine equates to 1.3 percent of Google’s sales last year.
In terms of immediate actions, Compton sees this as something quite complex: “Whilst increasing numbers of commentators, lawyers and regulators regard the social platform giants as too big to control. Even if you make the decision to regulate the big platforms, and that is an issue in itself involving freedom of expression, how can those platforms regulate their content when they have two billion or so users?”
Google has stated that it is preparing to make changes to address the European Commission’s concerns about the Android case.