Saturday

19th Sep 2020

Google faces possible EU fine

  • Vestager: 'If the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe' (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Google has 10 weeks to respond to the European Commission in a market abuse dominance case that could see it fined up to 10 percent of its recent annual turnover.

European anti-trust regulators on Wednesday (15 April) accused the Internet giant of manipulating search queries on its comparison-shopping service in a preliminary probe launched five years ago.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The American firm received a “statement of objections” that outlines a list of complaints from the Brussels executive.

The latest twist is part of an ongoing series of Google’s anti-competitive practices.

Last year, former competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia struck a deal with Google to resolve issues on how it promotes its own specialised search services on its web page.

But Wednesday’s announcement raised the stakes by not excluding sanctions should claims that Google’s shopping services squeeze out competition and innovation be proved correct.

The contention revolves around “Google shopping”, a service that compares prices between different vendors.

EU commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager said Google needs to change its methods so that consumers are certain they see the best shopping results.

Google is accused of diverting traffic away from rivals and by extension, stifling competition, in breach of EU market rules.

Vestager said the company is systematically and prominently displaying its own services at the top of results even if not explicitly relevant to the original query.

“Google now has the opportunity to convince the commission to the contrary,” she told reporters in Brussels.

The American firm has run into legal hassles and complaints over the years after cornering over 90 percent of the general search engine market in most EU countries.

The latest tussle includes complaints filed from some 30 companies and consumer organisations. One in four are firms based in the US.

Beuc, a pan-EU organisation representing consumer groups, is among them.

Monique Goyens, Beuc’s general director, said the commission’s move is critical given Google’s prominence in the everyday lives of people.

“We need to correct such misleading malpractices, not just in this instance, but also for the future,” she said in a statement.

Thomas Vinje, a legal counsel and spokesman for FairSearch Europe, says abuses by Google have “devastated rivals, from mapping to video search to product price comparison.”

The case could also set a precedent on enforcing EU anti-competition rules.

An infringement would allow anti-trust regulators to expand their probe into other specialised search query areas like hotels, flights, and maps.

Google’s senior-vice president Amit Singhal, for his part, on Wednesday struck a defiant tone in response to the latest threat.

“While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways - and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark,” he wrote in his blog.

Android abuse?

Vestager also announced a separate formal investigation into how Google exploits its Android mobile operating system on smartphones and tablets.

Regulators want to know if Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems by requiring smartphone and tablet manufacturers to “exclusively pre-install Google’s own applications or services.”

They will also probe whether Google prevented the manufacturers from creating competing versions of Android and if it bundles Google applications on other devices that run the operating system.

“I want to make sure the markets in this area can flourish without anticompetitive constraints imposed by any company,” said Vestager.

EU to accuse Google of abusing power

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager is expected to file charges against US internet company Google on Wednesday.

Vestager's assured performance

It was an assured and even-handed performance from one of the most powerful officials in the business world.

EU charges Google over Android

The European Commission accuses Google of violating competition rules with its Android operating system for smartphones.

Opinion

Innovative lessons across the Atlantic

Europe has its own Internet success stories like Skype, Snapchat and Spotify. But are they given the right atmosphere to grow and prosper?

News in Brief

  1. Belarus president puts army on EU borders
  2. US: Lebanese group hoarding explosives in EU states
  3. Russia loses EU sanctions appeal
  4. UK guidelines explain Brexit treaty-violation plan
  5. Over 10,000 corona cases a day in France
  6. Greek police move Moria refugees following fire
  7. WHO warns Europe not to cut 14-day quarantine period
  8. MEPs urge EU Council to 'finally' protect rights in Poland

Podcast

Ylva Johansson on Migration and Drama Queens

Commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, would like to win the approval of all EU member states for a new proposal for a common asylum and migration policy - something her predecessors failed to do.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Commissioner: No one will like new EU migration pact
  2. Buying an EU passport 'no use for evading sanctions'
  3. MEPs call for first-ever EU law on Romani inclusion
  4. EU to help draft Libya's strategy on border security
  5. Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal
  6. Ylva Johansson on Migration and Drama Queens
  7. Does Erdoğan's long arm now reach Belgian universities?
  8. Biden threatens UK trade deal over Brexit shambles

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us