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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Google faces $2.7B fine

Google faces $2.7B fine for skewing search results for shoppers

The fine from the European Union is twice as big as predicted -- and there could be more to come for the search giant as EU regulators look into Android.

The European Union just served notice that it will not go easy on Google.
EU regulators on Tuesday slapped Google with a 2.42 billion euro ($2.72 billion) fine for favoring its own shopping services in its search results over those of rivals.

"What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules," said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a statement. "It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation."

The fine is the biggest antitrust penalty the EU has ever applied to a single company, exceeding the $1 billion fine handed to Intel in 2009. It also far exceeds the $1.2 billion estimate that experts watching the Google case predicted.

Tuesday's action against Google is yet another dustup in a series of confrontations between European bureaucrats and Silicon Valley giants. The EU, for instance, has been pushing Facebook, Twitter and others to do more to fight hate speech and terrorist activities on social media. Ireland, meanwhile, has squared off against Apple over tax payments.

In addition to being a huge regulatory setback for Google, the new ruling suggests the EU won't cut Google any slack -- bad news, given its ongoing investigations into Android and search advertising.
In the Android case, the EU is investigating whether Google may be crushing its rivals in the apps and services market by insisting Google services be preinstalled on all phones running Android. The company has also been accused of blocking rivals in online search advertising. Both cases could potentially result in further fines for Google.

The Android case could conclude within the coming months, but there's no word yet on the advertising case.

The new $2.7 billion fine comes as a result of a seven-year investigation by the EU into whether Google was giving priority to its own needs over the needs of European shoppers. The Competition Commission has found that the internet giant systematically abuses its dominance in search to promote its own shopping services. European regulators also found that Google actively demotes rivals in its results through use of algorithms, making them less visible to consumers.

If Google does not stop this practice within 90 days, its parent company, Alphabet, will be charged a further 5 percent of its average daily global revenue in additional fines, Europe's Competition Commission said in a press conference livestreamed on Facebook.

Google defended its approach to presenting search results, saying it disagrees with the EU's decision and will consider an appeal after it reviews the details.

"When you shop online, you want to find the products you're looking for quickly and easily. And advertisers want to promote those same products," Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, said in a statement. "That's why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both."

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a  tech policy think tank, called the EU ruling a bad deal for consumers, who, it said, had benefited from Google's product comparison tool.
"The decision in this case shows the fundamental problem with the EU's approach to antitrust issues: It is willing to take heavy-handed actions to protect competitors, at the expense of consumers," ITIF President Robert D. Atkinson said in a statement. "The only real beneficiary of today's ruling is the EU's treasury."

Google's fines are to be paid straight into the EU budget, helping to finance the European Union and reduce the tax burden on individuals in member states.


Don't throw it away!

Don't throw it away! What to do with old electronic devices

When you've bought a new tablet, smartphone or laptop, what should you do with the old one? Many old devices languish in bottom drawers or, worse still, end up in the trash.
Next time you have an unwanted device on your hands, think again. Taking old electronic devices to retailers or local collection points is an option, but you can also continue using old devices that are still working, give them away or sell them to help protect the environment. Here are some alternatives to our throwaway culture:

1) Repair it

Whether it's a Blu-ray player, toaster or mobile phone, if a device has broken after its warranty has expired and having it fixed is too expensive, it's always worth giving it a go yourself.
The website, for instance, lists skilled amateurs or professionals who may lend you a hand. There are many other similar initiatives to be found online. It's also worth looking out for websites and videos offering step-by-step instructions for fixing various devices.

2) Carry on using it

You've been offered a new smartphone to go with a new contract, or you've seen an amazing discount on a huge flat-screen TV. Temptation is everywhere, but consumers should always consider whether they really need a new device.
In the case of mobile phone contracts, restraint may even pay off in the long run. "Many providers offer a lower monthly rate if you use your own device," says Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Or you can switch to a prepaid contract.

3) Convert it

Even if your mobile phone, computer or notebook no longer serves the purpose you originally bought it for, you might still be able to use it for something else.
An old computer - whether it's a PC or a notebook - can often be turned into a secondary device which you use for network storage or as a server, and a smartphone could be used for music or an internet connection. An old router can be converted into a WiFi repeater.

4) Give it away

"Check whether your device is suitable for secondary use," advises the UBA. If it is, you're bound to find someone who will benefit from it.
Tablets are a good alternative to regular computers for older people, who are often just starting out with computers and the internet so don't need anything fancy. They could also be of interest to families with children.
Consider selling old devices through classified ads or online auctions. In both cases, you should make sure you delete your personal data from the device.

5) Buy second-hand

You can also do a lot for the environment by opting to buy devices second-hand. "If you don't need to have the latest device, you can save a lot of money with a used smartphone," the UBA points out. This also applies to a number of other devices, from digital cameras to computers


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