The European Commission is gearing to launch antitrust charges against Google over alleged anti-competitive practices.
Following more than five years of investigation and three unsuccessful settlement attempts, the European Commission, EU’s top antitrust authority, appears to be in the final stages of preparing formal antitrust charges against Google.
Google, which holds up to 90 percent of the search market in Europe, has been facing accusations of anti-competitive practices, including using its dominant position in search to funnel traffic to its own properties, rather than competitors’, “scrapping” content from news and media sites, and imposing unfair restrictions to companies that look to operate on its platforms.
According to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, the EC is currently asking companies who have filed complaints against Google for the permission to publicize information that they supplied to the Commission confidentially. People familiar with the flow of antitrust investigations tell WSJ that this is a sure sign that the Commission will soon file formal antitrust charges against Google.
An eventual antitrust lawsuit would be the biggest since the famous suit against Microsoft, which the EC found guilty of anti-competitive behavior in promoting Windows and Internet Explorer. Microsoft paid $1.8 billion in fines and agreed to change its practices.
To be clear, there’s still time for Google and the EC to reach a settlement, though European leadership seems to favor formal charges over a settlement. And, even if Google is charged in an antitrust case, a settlement can be reached at any time. These type of affairs tend to drag on for years; if the EC finally decides to fine Google, it can slap the search giant with the equivalent of up to 10 percent of its annual revenue.
While Europe has been taking a more aggressive stance against Google, the Mountain View company had similar issues across the Atlantic. The FTC decided not to open an antitrust case against Google, but the decision has been controversial even among the regulator’s staff.