Shares of Google parent Alphabet are in the red on Wednesday morning as European Union antitrust regulators unveiled a record €4.3 billion ($5 billion) fine against the tech giant for allegedly anti-competitive practices related to Google's Android operating system. The wide-ranging probes into Alphabet have been a primary focus of Margrethe Vestager, the bloc's famously aggressive competition commissioner, since she was first appointed to the role in 2014.
Wednesday's fine follows a then-record 2.4 billion euro ($2.8 billion) levied by Vestager last year over allegations that Google's search feature unfairly benefited its comparative-shopping service.
Of course, the size of the latest fine is certainly notable, and begs the question: Is the bloc using these fines to retaliate against the US tech industry and President Trump for his refusal to grant a permanent exemption to the EU from the US's tariffs on aluminum and steel imports? Like China, which is also employing similar "stealth" retaliatory measures, the bloc also has a massive trade surplus of roughly $150 billion with the US.
Others have speculated that the hefty fines and intense scrutiny are a result of resentments in the EU over the global dominance of the US tech industry. Bloomberg broke the story, and also pointed out that the expected fine is roughly equivalent to the annual contribution to the EU's budget made by the Netherlands.
The decision will bring the running total of fines levied against Alphabet to €6.7 billion, and could soon be followed by fines related to Google's online advertising contracts - the last of the three anti-trust probes against the company.
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