Google Shopping to separate from search engine to appease EU

Google has conceded to the demands of the EU commissioner and will formally separate its Google Shopping service from its main search platform.

Google Shopping to separate from search engine to appease EU

In June, the European Union fined Google €2.42 billion (£2.14 billion) — a record-breaking amount — for unfairly using its search engine to direct users towards its shopping services.

It was given until 28 September to make changes to Google Shopping otherwise further fines would be issued, up to 5% of daily revenue. Now the company will require Google Shopping to bid against its rivals for adverts shown higher up on the page, according to Bloomberg

As part of this change, ten advert slots at the top of the search screen will be auctioned off to give rival sites a chance to buy space. Google Shopping will be able to bid for the slots too, but it will not be subsidised by Google; the slots cannot be given away for free.

This will only affect Google in Europe. The company continues to challenge the findings, even though it is making these changes. 

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“We’re confident these cases will ultimately be decided based on the facts and that this analysis will show our product innovations have benefited consumers and merchants, and expanded competition,” said Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, in a blog post last year.

“The surest signs of dynamic competition in any market are low prices, abundant choices and constant innovation.”

Since early 2015, three separate EU investigations looking into Google’s possible antitrust actions resulted in charges.

One investigation focuses on the company using its search services to steer users toward its own products and services, while another claims its advertising products restrict consumers’ choices. The third concerns Android which, according to the EU, is unfairly preinstalled with Google services such as its search engine.  

Google’s troubles are reminiscent of an antitrust case against Intel, which resulted in a £9 million fine issued in 2008 and was upheld after the company appealed in 2014. At the time, the fine was the largest antitrust penalty mandated by the EU and gave the government body a chance to bare its teeth as a mediator of online global business.

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