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By Robert Donachie
The European Union’s antitrust regulator slapped a record $2.71 billion fine on Google Tuesday for favoring some of its price-comparison search results over those of its rivals.
In addition to the fine, the EU ordered the company to apply the same search results methods to its rivals that it does to its own company, The Wall Street Journal reports. Effectively, the EU’s antitrust arm is asking Google to level the playing field.
Google has 90 days to respond to the European Commission’s demands, or it will face penalties up to 5 percent of its parent company’s, Alphabet Inc., daily revenue. That could be a substantial amount, given that Alphabet’s fourth-quarter revenue in 2016 was $26.06 billion.
Under EU law, Google — not the EU’s regulatory body — comes up with proposals for how it will guarantee that the company treats competitors fairly. If the proposals are not sufficient, the EU can demand further changes as it sees fit.
The Tuesday fine marks the latest move by the EU to reign in the tech world in Europe. Separate from this case, Google has two other ongoing antitrust cases with the European Commission related to Android — the software system used in its cell phones — and to some advertising products. The company denies the allegations in both cases.
The EU has been hard at work cracking down on cronyism, unfair practices and tax safe havens. The European Commission ordered Apple to pay $14.5 billion (plus interest) in back taxes to Ireland wherein the company had allegedly avoided paying nearly all corporate taxes for over a decade. The antitrust regulator has also gone after Starbucks and Amazon for avoiding corporate tax in Europe.