The European Competition Commission on Wednesday (April 15th) served a Statement of Objections on Google Inc., accusing the US search giant of cheating its competitors by manipulating its Internet search results so as to deliver an unfair advantage to its own Google Shopping service, according to a Reuters report.
The Commission also initiated another anti-trust investigation into Google’s Android mobile system.
On the eve of a high-profile visit to the US, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: "I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules. If the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe."
The Commission has powers to impose anti-trust fines of up to ten per cent of their annual sales, which in Google’s case could be as high as $6.6 billion (£4.4 billion). Microsoft has suffered EU fines of over €2.2 billion (£1.58 billion) over the past ten years. The Commission’s largest anti-trust fine was €1.09 billion, imposed on Intel. Apart from fines the commission can also demand that a company change its business practices to ensure compliance with EU regulations.
Would she fine Google? "It is very important that every road is open – first when it comes to commitments but also when it comes to the other road, at the end of which is a fine," Vestager said in reply to the question at a news conference.
Google has ten weeks to respond to the allegations and can also ask to be heard. In case Google chooses not to settle, and the matter reaches the courts, it could drag on for years.
In response to the news of issue of a Statement of Objections, Amit Singhal, senior vice president, Google Search said in a blog post that current developments in Internet search, such as search services being launched by other companies namely Facebook, Pinterest and Amazon, as well as new funding being made available to search engines such as Quixey, DuckDuckGo and Qwant, show that no single player is able to dominate the field.
“It’s why we respectfully but strongly disagree with the need to issue a Statement of Objections and look forward to making our case over the weeks ahead,” said Singhal.