As EU fines Google for ripping-off customers, Labour MEPs warn Brexit UK must not become a deregulation haven

Labour MEPs have welcomed the record €2.42 billion (£2.14bn) fine from the European Commission against Google for abusing its dominant position over internet search, and warned that the UK must not become a deregulated, anti-competitive free-for-all after Brexit.

Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition, says Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results, and demoting those of competitors.

Google must now give “equal treatment” to rival comparison shopping services as its own Google Shopping service. It must comply to the Commission’s satisfaction or risk daily fines capped at around €12.5 million (£11m) a day.

Neena Gill MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on competition, said:

“British consumers are among the most affected by Google’s shopping cart cartel – since the beginning of the abuse in each country, Google’s comparison shopping service has increased its traffic 45-fold in the United Kingdom, compared to 35-fold in Germany, 29-fold in the Netherlands, 17-fold in Spain and 14-fold in Italy.

“Meanwhile, traffic to rival comparison shopping services dropped significantly – there were sudden drops of traffic to certain rival websites of 85% in the United Kingdom, up to 92% in Germany and 80% in France. These figures starkly illustrate how Google has tried to rig the internet shopping service market in its favour, and show why it is vital the EU took action.

“Today’s ruling is another example of how the EU acts to protect consumers – especially, as the above stats show, online shoppers in the UK. We cannot have any reduction in this protection after Brexit. It is essential the UK cometition authorities have similar powers to that of the Commission, and act with the same determination and decisiveness.”

Catherine Stihler MEP, vice-chair of the European Parliament internal market and consumer protection committee, said:

“The Commission has been right to investigate Google to ensure the internet search market is truly competitive, and not rigged. Today’s record fine should send a warning to all companies in all fields to think twice before contemplating ripping off their customers.

“One of the great advantages of the EU is the Single Market of more than 500 million people, the world’s biggest free-trade area, bringing more customers for businesses and lower prices for consumers. To ensure it works, it is essential the Single Market functions properly, to the maximum benefit of companies and customers, and this can only happen with rules and standards that are applied fairly and uniformly.

“The EU has today shown once again that it takes competition issues seriously and will make sure nobody is above the law, no matter how dominant. After the UK leaves the European Union, it is vital we maintain the same high standards, and do not become a deregulated, anti-competitive free-for-all in which hard-working people get ripped off.”