Google was slapped with a $2.7 billion fine on Tuesday after European antitrust officials found the company had been directing users to its online shopping platform services over that of its rivals. This action was ruled as denying "consumers a genuine choice," according to multiple news reports.
"The penalty, of 2.4 billion euros, highlights the aggressive stance that European officials have taken in regulating many of the world’s largest technology companies, going significantly further than their American counterparts," the New York Times reported. The fine is a record-breaking amount, double the previous highest penalty in a case like this.
"In Europe, companies must compete on the merits regardless if they are European or not," said Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's antitrust chief. "What Google has done is illegal under E.U. antitrust rules."
European Union officials have denied claims from those in the United States who say they are specifically targeting Silicon Valley companies.
Regulators have said that Google has 90 days to make changes or it will face additional penalties, according to CNN. "We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today," a spokesperson for Google said in a statement. "We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case."
"The Commission said that Google acted illegally by giving priority placement in search results to its own shopping service, while relegating results from rivals to areas where potential buyers were much less likely to click," CNN reported. Legally, the fine could have been as high as 10 percent of Google's annual sales. In 2016, Google's revenues totaled $89.5 billion.
In the past, Vestager has demanded that Apple repay $14.5 billion in back taxes in Ireland, and also opened an investigation to Amazon's tax practices in Europe, the Times reported. Concerns over how Facebook gathers and handles data have also been raised in Europe, though the company has consistently denied wrongdoing.
Google must make proposals that would guarantee it "treats competitors fairly when people make online search queries," the Times reported.
"Google’s search engine has played a decisive role in determining what most of us read, use and purchase online," said Shivaun Raff, a co-founder of Foundem, a British comparison-shopping site and the first company to file a complaint against Google, according to the Times. "Left unchecked, there are few limits to this gatekeeper power."