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Europe’s Google Fines Cross the Line

The European Union's escalating fines on Google betray a simplistic understanding of what constitutes free and fair competition. If Google is a "monopoly," that is because it has outperformed all other market competitors, not because it has abused its position or benefited from state intervention to keep out competitors.

PARIS – The European Union’s regulatory bodies seem to be particularly hostile to Google. In June 2017, the European Commission fined the company €2.42 billion ($2.75 billion) for breaching EU antitrust rules, after concluding that, “Google has abused its market dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, its comparison shopping service.”

Then, last month, the Commission went after Google again, fining it €4.34 billion ($4.94 billion) for “illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices.” Google had made agreements with mobile-device manufacturers and network operators “to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome).” Moreover, it seems that the European Parliament and several EU member states would like to dismantle Google by separating its search engine from other possible revenue sources.

There is no doubt that Google holds a unique position on the Internet. In terms of search activity, it has commanded around 90% of the market for over a decade, leading many soi-disant defenders of competition to denounce it for “abusing” its “dominant position.” But most of these attacks are driven by a mix of misconceptions and questionable claims of harm by Google’s competitors.

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