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Google hit with record-breaking $3.5 billion fine … Netflix to increase prices … Pandora shuts down Australian HQ

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By Dominic Powell and Emma Koehn.

Search engine giant Google has been hit with a record €2.4 billion ($3.5 billion) fine from the European Union for breaking antitrust laws, reports The Guardian.

The company was found to be using its influence over its search engine to artificially promote its own shopping service over that of its competitors in search results.

The company has been given 90 days to stop the activity and show how it will change its actions. If this is not done within 90 days, the company faces potential fines of up to €10.6 million per day.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Google said the company is considering appealing the case. The business is also now additionally liable for potential civil actions rising from business affected by its behaviour, according to Guardian reports.

“We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case,” the spokesperson said.

Netflix introduces price hike

Video-on-demand service Netflix has drawn the ire of its Australian customers by announcing a price increase of up to 20%, alongside the already planned 10% GST tax coming in on July 1.

The company is increasing the price of its basic one user plan from $8.99 to $9.99 per month, with the higher tier plans also increasing. Users with a standard subscription will face a new monthly price of $13.99, while those with a premium subscription will be charged $17.99. Netflix says prices will go up by an average of 16% across the three tiers.

A spokesperson for the company told SmartCompany in a statement the price rise would be justified by additional content.

“From time to time, Netflix plans and pricing are adjusted as we add more exclusive TV shows and movies, introduce new product features and improve the overall Netflix experience to help members find something great to watch even faster,” the spokesperson said.

“We also adjust plans and pricing to respond to local market changes, such as tax and regulatory changes.

“Since launching in Australia in 2015, we have not changed pricing. In light of the upcoming GST increase, we will be rolling out updated plans and pricing starting June 28 in Australia.”

Existing Netflix users will be sent 30-day notices of the price change from June 29, said the spokesperson.

However, unhappy users took to Twitter to complain over the changes, with some saying they may look towards “another provider”.

Pandora shuts down Australian HQ

Music streaming service Pandora has closed its Australian and New Zealand headquarters in the same week as the news its co-founder and global chief executive Tim Westergren will step away from the business.

News Corp reports an employee has confirmed the global platform’s Australian office will cease local operations. Managing director for the Australian region Jane Huxley stepped down six months ago but no replacement was appointed.

Pandora Internet Radio was founded in 2000, but the New York Times reports it is facing tumultuous times, with its share price hit hard over the past 12 months.

*This article was updated at 4.30pm on June 28, 2017, to include a statement from Netflix. 

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