Did Google abuse its dominant position? EU decision expected within days

European antitrust investigators are working quickly to bring the case to a conclusion

A ruling from the European Commission on allegations that Google abused its dominant market position is expected within days.

Rumors abound that the Internet giant will be hit with a long list of objections. However, Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia gave no indication of the outcome when delivering his findings Wednesday on two unrelated cases.

Google is accused of using its search service to direct users to its own services and to reduce the visibility of competing websites and services. The complaints were lodged by French search engine eJustice.fr and the U.K.-based Foundem in 2010. Regulators extended the case last November into a full investigation to determine whether Google's algorithm unfairly penalizes rivals.

As the final stages of the investigation approach, lobbying has been stepped up. European Consumer Organization (BEUC) has urged the Commission to take a "strong stance" on the principle of search neutrality.

"Consumers trust that search results are impartial and based solely on relevance to their query, without any manipulation of the order or results," said BEUC Director General Monique Goyens in a letter to the Commission. She added that if Google manipulates the results, consumers are "deprived of the possibility to make informed choices."

Google will want to see the matter concluded quickly to avoid a situation like the Microsoft antitrust case, which dragged on for 10 years and will likely welcome any speedy decision. If the company is found to have breached E.U. competition laws, the Commission will issue a "statement of objections" outlining its concerns.

Google will then have a chance to respond and potentially resolve the problems before facing sanctions. If it comes to that, the Commission can fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover for breaching E.U. rules as well as imposing conditions on how they run their businesses

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Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
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