Google’s $2.7 Billion EU Fine Could Just Be the Beginning

Google's parent company Alphabet can easily afford the $2.7 billion write-down it's taking to cover a big antitrust fine in Europe. But it might find it harder to shrug off the rest of the European regulatory assault that's headed its way.

In June, a European Commission ruling slapped down Google for abusing its market dominance in search by unfairly directing visitors to its comparison shopping service, Google Shopping, to the detriment of its rivals. The regulators not only imposed a huge fine, they also insisted that Google change the way it provides search results in Europe.

Alphabet is still mulling an appeal of that ruling, which could take years to get through the European Court of Justice. And that case is only the first of several such investigations that have embroiled Google across the Atlantic, a situation that raises uncertainty about its ability to operate freely on the continent going forward.

Why Europe Is Upset

After a seven-year antitrust probe, the European Commission concluded that Google stifles the ability of rivals like Yelp to compete. That's a different standard than in the U.S., where regulators tend to step in only when consumer prices go up due to monopolistic power.

Europe's top antitrust regulator, Margrethe Vestager, said Google "denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits." Google says it's giving consumers what they want: product listings with pictures and prices, saving them the trouble of repeating a search on another site.

In two other cases, the commission charges Google with allegedly forcing its Android smartphone partners to favor Google's apps and limiting the way its ad-partner websites can display search ads from Google rivals.

An Alphabet spokeswoman said Monday the company had nothing to say on the matter beyond its blog response to the fine last month, in which it painted itself as an underdog in...

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