Google faces hefty fine from European Union antitrust authority

Microsoft also needs to honor commitments it has made in an unrelated antitrust settlement, says the EU competition watchdog

Europe's competition watchdog is considering formal proceedings against Google over antitrust complaints about the way it promotes its own services in search results, potentially exposing the company to a fine of 10 percent of its global turnover.

Talks with the Internet giant about concessions it will make to settle the case are still dragging on, European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in New York on Thursday.

Google offered some concessions to the European Commission in July, but the Commission has not yet circulated these to competitors to get a sense of how the remedies might work in practice. Alumnia said he has ordered Commission staff "to engage into technical discussions with Google in order to assess in-depth the solutions presented." But he warned that if these are found lacking, he would be "obliged to continue with our formal proceedings".

If the Commission found Google guilty of breaking E.U. competition rules, it could restrict Google's business activities in Europe and fine the company up to 10 percent of its annual global revenue (US$37.9 billion last year).

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 first lodged by French search engine eJustice.fr and the U.K.-based Foundem in 2010. But 14 other companies have since followed their lead. The Commission extended the case into a full investigation to determine whether Google unfairly penalizes rivals in November last year.

There are also allegations that Google may have copied travel and restaurant reviews from competing sites without their permission and that its contractual restrictions may prevent advertisers from moving their online campaigns to rival search engines.

Almunia also took a hard line on an unrelated Microsoft antitrust case, in which the company was recently caught not applying a remedy it had agreed to.

To close an investigation of abuses of its dominance in the operating system market to gain browser market share, in 2009 the company promised to offer Windows users a choice screen allowing them to easily select their preferred web browser.

"This remedy was very effective while it was implemented," said Almunia. But Microsoft did not include the choice screen with the version of Windows released in February 2011.

The Commissioner said that while he finds "commitments offered by the companies themselves are a good way to solve competition problems, as an alternative to lengthy proceedings, the policy can work only if they translate their words into action."

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?