The European Union took a bite out of Google today, issuing a 2.4 billion euro (or $2.7 billion) fine against the tech company for what it says are violations of its antitrust laws. Union officials say that Google’s searches drive consumers toward the company’s own comparison shopping service over other options, and thus deny “European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.” The EU has ordered the company to change the way its engine handles shopping requests within the next 90 days, or increasing fines will be levied. Although the $2.7 billion ding is only about a quarter of the company’s annual net profits, it’s still quite a bit higher than the one most tech observers were expecting to see handed down on this case, suggesting that EU officials are going hard after the American company.
For its part, Google has said that there’s nothing anti-consumer about its policies, and that it intends to appeal the ruling. “When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily,” the company said in a statement. “And advertisers want to promote those same products. That’s why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.” If the EU sticks to its guns, though, the company is in for a somewhat awkward situation; satisfactorily altering the way it handles shopping searches is likely to expose public information about its search algorithms to the public, a nightmare scenario for some of the company’s most closely guarded tech.