Google antitrust: Now the heat's on Chrome as fines run into billions

The EU is increasing its scrutiny of Google's business practices as new preliminary investigation starts.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google could be facing more fines over European competition law after already being hit with €8bn ($8.8bn) in antitrust penalties in the past two years. 

Google's European competition fines have been stacking up. In the past two years European Commission (EC) competition boss Margrethe Vestager has imposed a €2.42bn ($2.72bn) fine on Google for favoring its own shopping service, a €4.3bn ($4.8bn) fine for Android contracts and a €1.5bn ($1.65bn) fine over its core ad business.  

Now Google's Chrome web browser is in the spotlight, too. 

Reuters reported over the weekend that the European Commission competition regulator has asked Google rivals about the data it collects in various areas, including local search services, online advertising, online ad targeting services, login services, and web browsers.

SEE: IT pro's guide to GDPR compliance (free PDF)

The Commission said it has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google's and Facebook's data practices. 

"These investigations concern the way data is gathered, processed, used, and monetized including for advertising purposes. The preliminary investigations are ongoing," a Commission spokesperson said.

The new questionnaire steps up pressure on Google, which, along with Amazon and Facebook, is facing scrutiny from regulators in the US over its dominance of the web. LIke US investigators, European regulators are focused on big tech in general rather than specifically on Google. 

Nonetheless, Europe could become a more complicated market for Google. Google is facing renewed pressure from rivals over its response to Europe's 2017 anti-competition ruling by favoring Google Shopping over European rivals. 

Last week over 40 European competitors signed a letter to EC competition boss Margrethe Vestager requesting her office force Google to comply with the antitrust order.     

Vestager's office is also currently investigating whether Google used its dominance in search to favor its own job-searches business, Google for Jobs.   

SEE: Go Google free: We pick privacy-friendly alternatives to every Google service

Google says it is working with the EC to address its questions. 

"We use data to make our services more useful and to show relevant advertising, and we give people the controls to manage, delete or transfer their data," a Google spokesperson said. 

"We will continue to engage with the Commission and others on this important discussion for our industry."

More on Google and competition

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