EU slaps Google with massive fine for "anti-competitive behavior"

File this one under, “those socialists really never quit.”

The EU has decided that they don’t like the way that Google provides their absolutely free, no-cost-to-you web browsing service because it exhibits “anti-competitive behavior” when you’re shopping for something online. They’ve been conducting an investigation since 2008 checking out billions of search results (yeah… I just bet they have, but I’ll stop acting like a twelve year old now) and determined that the horrible search service has the audacity to promote the products of their own advertisers in a preferential fashion when search results are displayed. Can you imagine the nerve? And in response, they’ve dropped a nearly 2.5 billion euro fine on them. (Associated Press)

The European Union slapped a record 2.42 billion-euro ($2.72 billion) fine on internet giant Google on Tuesday for taking advantage of its dominance in online searches to direct customers to its own online shopping business.

European regulators gave the company based in Mountain View, California, 90 days to stop or face more fines of up to 5 percent of the average daily worldwide revenue of parent company Alphabet.

Google says it is considering an appeal.

The European Commission, which polices EU competition rules, alleges Google elevates its shopping service even when other options might have better deals.

The Commission said Google “gave prominent placement in its search results only to its own comparison shopping service, whilst demoting rival services. It stifled competition on the merits in comparison shopping markets.”

I’m sorry, but precisely what law is being broken here? Google’s web browser is not only free to use, but nobody is making you use it. You’re welcome to go use Bing or any of the other similar search engines still out there. (Just as a side note, did you know that Dogpile is still out there and running?) The way Google makes their money on searches is from advertising. Obviously they will try to display their advertisers’ wares prominently. If you don’t know that then you probably shouldn’t be using a computer without supervision. They push advertising to me all the time based on everything from my search history to the contents of my Gmail letters. I’m not saying I’m wild about it, but they provide all of these services to me for free and it’s something I’m willing to put up with in return.

Also, it’s not as if the shopper can’t find other results easily. Just as an experiment I did a search on chainsaws. (Because who can’t use another chainsaw?) On the first page of results using only the word “chainsaws” I saw links for Home Depot, Stihl, Husqvarna, ECHO, Lowes, Sears, Tractor Supply and Amazon. Thinking of other outlets, I began wondering what I would need to do to get results from a different store I like who doesn’t have such favorable placement with Google, such as True Value. So I did another search for “Chainsaws True Value.” Guess what? It was the first result.

But even beyond that, this isn’t a question of whether or not Google is “exhibiting anti-competitive behavior” here. What obligation do they have to be competitive in the first place? You choose to use their free search engine (did I mention that it’s free?) and you structure the search that you put in. If you don’t see what you want on the first page you can click through a thousand more pages or refine your search criteria. This is such complete nonsense that it’s staggering to anyone who grew up in a competitive, capitalist system.

I know plenty of people have issues with some of Google’s policies, accusations of bias and whatnot, but this is another matter entirely. The socialist EU is trying to levy crippling fines on an American company for failing to do something they are under no obligation to do. Google should refuse to pay and invite the EU to block their domains in Europe. Then they can answer to their own citizens when they can’t get to their Gmail accounts anymore.