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Google gives in to Gaggle over shopping shenanigans

Court Legal

Google has put forward details on how it will submit to the will of the European Commission (hereafter known as the Gaggle of Red-tapers) after it was hit with a €2.4 billion fine relating to Google Shopping search results.

Details are a bit thin on the ground at the moment, though Google told Telecoms.com it has informed the Gagglers how it plans to comply with the decision. It just hasn’t told anyone else yet.

For some it might come as a bit of a surprise. Those of a combative mind set might have assumed Google might have flexed its legal muscles and snarled over the Atlantic, but it would appear even the ‘do no evil’ giant is just as human as the rest of us; it can also succumb to the weight of red tape, just as the rest of us have at some point given up and accepted a penalty due to the cumbersome, illogical and inefficient public sector processes.

Back in June, the Gagglers hit the Googlers with a fine of €2.42 billion, a record amount would you know, for favouring its own shopping comparison service in some search results. As you might expect with anything associated with the European Commission, this was a saga which had been dragging on for some time, though the scale of the fine wowed a few people.

This would be the reason some would have expected a fight from Google. Rumours circulated in the weeks prior to the announcement of a €1 billion fine, but the actual amount was certainly a bit higher.

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate,” said Chief Gaggler Margrethe Vestager, at the time. “And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”

As well as ordering Google come up with a solution which evened the playing field, the lethargic legislator ordered the company to sort it all out by September 28. Failure to do so would have resulted in additional daily fines of 5% of revenues. Going on 2016 revenues, that would have been roughly $12 million a day. There certainly was some incentive there.

Perhaps this is the reason Google chose to comply with the ruling as opposed to fight it. Most people would presume the legal might of Google is considerable, but in this case there was a lot to lose should the boresome bureaucrat work wonders with the red tape and coffee breaks.

“It is Google’s sole responsibility to ensure compliance with the Commission antitrust decision,” the European Commission has said in a statement.

“The Commission’s role is to monitor Google’s compliance. In this context the Commission can confirm that, as required by the Commission decision, it has received information from Google on how the company intends to ensure compliance with the Commission decision by the set deadline. Furthermore, Google will continue to be under an obligation to keep the Commission informed of its actions by submitting periodic reports.

“The Commission decision requires Google to stop its illegal conduct within 90 days of the decision and refrain from any measure that has the same or an equivalent object or effect. In particular, the Commission decision sets out the principle that Google has to give equal treatment to rival comparison shopping services and its own service.”

While the boresome bureaucrats might be slapping their backs in Brussels in between mouthfuls of waffles and exceptionally strong beer, there is another battle on the horizon. This might be a landmark win for the Gaggle, but when taking on Google in antitrust case concerning Android, the Silicon Valley techies might not be as compliant. Google has a lot more to lose when it comes to the operating system, so this might be where we see the true legal might of the search engine giant.


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