EU preparing to throw the book at Google

April 02, 2015 07:41
Google could face formal antitrust charges from the European Union anytime soon in a five-year probe that has stalled three times. Photo: Internet

Google faces action from Europe’s competition regulator in the next few weeks, setting the stage for formal antitrust charges.

The move is a further step in a five-year investigation that has stalled three times and sparked a political firestorm, the Wal Street journal reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The European Commission, the European Union’s top antitrust authority, has been asking companies that filed complaints against Google for permission to publish some information they previously submitted confidentially.

Shopping, local and travel companies are among those that have been contacted, one of those people said.

Antitrust experts said the requests were a strong indication that formal antitrust charges were being prepared.

A decision to file charges against Google would kick off the EU’s highest-profile antitrust suit since its lengthy campaign that started a decade ago against Microsoft Corp., which paid the bloc 1.7 billion euros (US$1.8 billion) in fines through 2012.

A settlement in Google’s case is always possible.

Even if the EU presses ahead with charges, Google could still strike a deal to resolve concerns that the company abuses its dominance in the European search market.

In addition to search, the commission has been investigating whether Google has been “scraping” content from rivals’ sites and unfairly restricting advertisers and software developers who do business with the search giant.

A draft conclusion prepared in March 2013 by the European Commission took the “preliminary view” that Google was abusing its dominant position in all four areas.

Google has denied any anticompetitive behavior. Speaking in Berlin last week, Kent Walker, its general counsel, pointed to a “painfully long list of unsuccessful Google products,” including Google+ and Street View in Germany, as evidence that competition laws were working.

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