What it all means for the Al­pha­bet unit

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL -

THE EU HANDED down a record €2.42 bil­lion (R34.89bn) fine to Al­pha­bet unit Google yes­ter­day for breach­ing EU an­titrust rules after a seven-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion prompted by com­plaints from both sides of the At­lantic. The fol­low­ing is a quick sum­mary of the EU de­ci­sion and Google’s other reg­u­la­tory is­sues.

The fine rep­re­sents 3 per­cent of Al­pha­bet/Google’s turnover in 2016. The big­gest sanc­tion prior to that was US chip maker In­tel’s €1.06bn fine in 2009.

The com­mis­sion found that Google had sys­tem­at­i­cally given prom­i­nent place­ment in searches to its own com­par­i­son shop­ping ser­vice and de­moted those of ri­vals in search re­sults. The com­mis­sion wants the com­pany to stop that, or face ad­di­tional non-com­pli­ance pay­ments of 5 per­cent of Al­pha­bet’s aver­age daily global turnover.

The ac­tion came after a seven-year long in­ves­ti­ga­tion prompted by scores of com­plaints from ri­vals such as US con­sumer re­view web­site Yelp, TripAd­vi­sor, UK price com­par­i­son site Foun­dem, News Cor­po­ra­tion and lob­by­ing group FairSearch.

Google may choose to ap­peal in EU courts, but In­tel, the pre­vi­ous an­titrust fine record holder, has waited seven years for a fi­nal judg­ment on its ap­peal. Google re­mains un­der com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tion in two other cases.

Google and other US-based in­ter­net com­pa­nies face in­creas­ing scru­tiny and reg­u­la­tion from the EU re­gard­ing user pri­vacy and data stor­age, most re­cently on mes­sag­ing, e-mail and voice ser­vices. The EU largely ex­pects greater co-op­er­a­tion from tech com­pa­nies on cy­ber se­cu­rity and counter ter­ror­ism. On Mon­day, Face­book, Google’s YouTube, Twit­ter and Mi­crosoft re­sponded with the an­nounce­ment of a Global In­ter­net Fo­rum to Counter Ter­ror­ism.

The com­mis­sion has a num­ber of on­go­ing cases in­volv­ing tech­nol­ogy gi­ants, notably Qual­comm, which was ac­cused in 2015 of us­ing fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives and preda­tory pric­ing to force out com­pe­ti­tion. – Reuters

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