Why is Google having an illegal behavior under EU competition rules?



“Google now has to stop it” says M. Vestager in a Tweet. Google was fined many times and with important amounts, by the EU Commission for breaching the European competition policy. The EU Commission finds Google to be abusing its dominant position on different European markets. Google has been fined €8.25 billion by the Commission over the last 3 years.

Google is in the place baby!

It is known and accepted that Google has a dominant position, quasi monopolistic, on the internet search market with it’s very famous Google Search. As you may all know, Google Search is the

most popular search engine in the entire world, with 87,35% market share. The second search engine in place is Bing and captures only 5,53% ... this is a hell of a gap indeed! Also, being one of the GAFAM, Google captures 90% of European market shares and is growing even more every year.


Therefore, it is important to remind ourselves that the dominant position is not illegal as such and is well authorized by the EU treaties and policies.


What is the problem then?


What is condemned by the article 102 of the TFEU (the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU) is the illegal use of the EU antitrust rules in order to fortify a preexisting dominant position. Consequently, abusing a dominant position is condemned and is illegal.

It must be noted and understood that Google’s actions block its competitors to act freely, regarding the principle of fair competition. Many times, the multinational firm breached EU antitrust rules by abusing its dominant position, giving her illegal advantages on the market.


For example, Google has made payments to manufacturers for them to pre-install the Google Search app. The firm refused the use of alternative versions of Android that was not provided by Google itself. Another example, Google has imposed many restrictive clauses in contracts and prevented, once again, its rivals to place their search adverts freely. Well, yeah, she is controlling...


The EU Commission has decided


Margarethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, is clear and confident: Google must stop these illegal practices.


Since forever, the Commission has Google in its sights. It is not until 2016 that the Commission formally and officially found Google to be illegally using its dominant position. But before the sentencing, it took 4 years of investigations by the EU Commission, allowing the Commission to gather lots of evidence such as financial and traffic data, documents of all sorts and numerous surveys.


The Commission is demanding, among other things, from Google to:

  • Stop the illegal practices and avoid the use of other practices, in order to acquire the same benefits and advantages;

  • Comply with the equal treatment system to rivals and stop shielding and covering itself from competitive pressure and rules;

  • Get ready to be liable for civil actions.


And the verdict is ... *Drum roll*


In June 2017, Google was first fined €2.42 billion for abusing its dominant position as a search engine. In July 2018 Google was then fined €4.34 billion for illegal practices made in order to reinforce its dominant position on the search market. Remember, Google is the most used search engine in the world. But still, they must really love the first place...

As if that was not enough, in March 2019, Google was once again fined €1.49 billion for illegal misuse of dominant position, by blocking its online advertising rivals. Google was found to be orchestrating and negotiating online search adverts, which is condemned by the EU legislation.


As you may have noticed, there is more or less one year between each fine. They never learn I guess.


And now what?


Google has filed an appeal for the 2018 fine. The legal battle is still pending and it is getting fierce out there! In a 2019 Tweet, M. Vestager insists: “they shouldn’t do that”. But Google doesn’t seem to be that sentimental and is still enjoying its quasi monopolistic position on the many European markets.


There is no doubt that the Commission is fighting against the misuses of European antitrust rules and is claiming to be watching form up close these practices. Nevertheless, it must be noted that fines are inflicted to Google since 2000 and are getting more and more significant, but Google doesn’t seem to stop. Given important turnovers approaching hundreds of billions of dollars, are these fines really working?


The dominant position, what to retain?


Some firms have what we call a dominant position on a given market and it can be monopolistic, just like Google. This scenario is perfectly authorized.

What is unauthorized and condemned is the misuse or the abusive use of this position, in order to fortify an already existing dominant position. This is what Google did. For this reprehensible behavior, Google was fined a total of €8.25 billions over the last 3 years.


At the end of the day, is it possible to imagine that, someday, Google will definitely stop these anti-competition practices?


Vocabulary


GAFAM: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft.

Misuse: mauvais usage / abus.

Turnovers: chiffre d’affaire.

Breach-ing: brèche, violation/infraction.

To be fined: se voir infliger une amende.

Competition rules/policy: règles de concurrence.

Principle of fair competition: principe de libre concurrence.

Market share: part de marché.


Lina Lahlou

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