Google has broken European antitrust laws and as a result could be fined up to 10 per cent of its annual earnings, the European Commission has said.
The search giant is accused of “abusing its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services [in the EEA] by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages”.
Such behaviour, if proved, would constitute an infringement of EU antitrust rules.
Furthermore, the Commission has formerly opened a separate investigation into Google’s Android mobile operating system that will examine “whether Google has entered into anti-competitive agreements or abused a possible dominant position” on mobile.
The main accusation is that Google gives greater page prominence to Google Shopping results than it does to its price comparison rivals, thus putting its own commercial interests above the actual relevance of the displayed results.
"The Commission's objective is to apply EU antitrust rules to ensure that companies operating in Europe, wherever they may be based, do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation,” the EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said.
"In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary. However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe."
A potential 10 per cent fine could total as much as $6bn. The EC is no stranger to fining American multinationals, having previously fined Microsoft $1.7bn and Intel $1.4bn.