The EU competition authority launched the investigation in 2010, following complaints from Foundem, a UK-based shopping comparison service; Microsoft; and two German press publishers’ associations, BDZV and VDZ. In 2013 and 2014, under the previous Competition Commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, the Commission was close to concluding a commitments decision with Google. Based on the evidence provided by the complainants, however, the Commission ultimately rejected all three sets of commitments offered by Google, paving the way for a formal prohibition decision under the new Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.
In addition to imposing the highest fine ever in a competition case, the Commission ordered that Google stop any illegal preferential treatment of Google Shopping within 90 days. In particular, Google must respect the “simple principle of equal treatment in its search results” (EU, MEMO/17/1785). The landmark decision is precedential, and it will set the framework for all of Google’s present and future activities in Europe.
“Market abuse in the technology area is fast becoming the greatest concerns for competition authorities across the globe. The European Commission decision involving Google’s search practices is a milestone in the efforts to regulatory authorities to restore and maintain integrity in the digital economy. We are committed to assuring that competition enforcement is addressed and secured in all aspects public and private so that such misconduct is deterred and its victims restituted for market manipulations. This is just the beginning of a necessary vigilant oversight in this significant economic setting.” said Chairman Michael D. Hausfeld.