Google Said to Face $1.2 Billion Antitrust Fine, but Battle With Europe Looms ~ BETA NAIJA BLOG: Breaking News, Latest News, Entertainment, Sport, Politics, Comedy and World News

Monday, 26 June 2017

Google Said to Face $1.2 Billion Antitrust Fine, but Battle With Europe Looms

Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s competition chief, is expected to call for Google to change how it ranks some of its search queries to give greater prominence to online rivals. Aris Oikonomou/European Pressphoto Agency
European Union officials are expected to issue a record fine of at least 1.1 billion euros, or $1.2 billion, against Google as soon as Tuesday for breaking the region’s tough competition rules.
Yet the hefty penalty and its timing, which were confirmed by two people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity, are likely to be quickly overshadowed by a more complex problem: How should Google comply with the decision to rein in its power?
That dilemma will now take center stage as the tech giant fights doggedly to protect its crown jewel — its closely guarded search algorithm — from the prying eyes of regulators and, possibly, its competitors.
Potentially heavy-handed intervention may raise the hackles of Google and other companies in the American tech world, which could claim that, once again, Europe is unfairly targeting companies from the United States. The region’s officials deny such accusations.
No matter the final outcome, analysts warn that jockeying for greater regulatory control over Google’s services in Europe will drag on for months, if not years, as the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, tries to turn its expected antitrust decision against Google into a reality.
“The issue they’re facing is, how does the European Commission solve the underlying problem” of Google’s suspected antitrust abuse, said Christian Bergqvist, an associate professor of competition law at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. “It will be very difficult to structure any remedy.”
As part of her decision, which is likely on Tuesday but may be delayed, Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s competition chief, is expected to call for Google to change how it ranks some of its search products to give its rivals — a collection of mostly small European and American tech companies — greater prominence when people search online.
How Google responds to these demands will be left to the company, which must provide the region’s authorities with potential technical solutions to counter its perceived antitrust abuse. Officials can ask for more changes if they are not satisfied with Google’s initial proposals.
Experts and some of the company’s competitors claim that any changes would most likely require greater oversight of Google’s products, including a potential independent monitor over its search services (and, potentially, its algorithms) in Europe to guarantee that it continues to comply with the antitrust ruling.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission declined to comment on the potential announcement.
Google, which has repeatedly said that it has not done anything illegal, said that it continued to work with the region’s authorities on the antitrust investigation, which began in 2010.
“We believe strongly that our innovations in online shopping have been good for shoppers, retailers and competition,” Al Verney, a company spokesman, said in a statement. Read more
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