Google could be hit with a fine of up to €6 billion as the European Union wraps up a five-year anti-trust investigation into the internet company and prepares to file charges.
It’s understood the European Commission – the 28-member bloc’s executive arm and its anti-trust authority – will file charges against Google sometime in April, in echoes of a decade-long competition battle it waged against Microsoft that saw the software giant pay over a €1 billion in fines three years ago.
What has Google done wrong? The EU suspects the company has been using its dominance across the continent – where it has more than a massive 90% market share, compared to over 67% in its home country of the United States – to suppress competitors on the web and give preference to its own offerings.
Such a scenario would, of course, be bad for European consumers by limiting the available choices of products and services. It would also be a negative for businesses, restricting the impact of online marketing campaigns, for instance, including SEO and PPC on rival search engines such as Bing from Microsoft – and indeed, Microsoft is among a raft of companies that have already filed complaints with the EU over Google’s practices.
Google denies that it has been acting in an unlawful manner in the EU, insisting that it operates in line with European anti-competition laws and does not abuse its dominant position in the market. It says rival firms appear high up in its search rankings, proof that it’s not trying to stifle competition.
If the EU suit is filed this month, it’s expected to take several more years before the case is concluded. It will mean additional investigations into the company and discussions about a settlement – and if one can’t be agreed, the EU may then fine the company, and it’s expected to be in the region of 10% of its annual revenue, which would be some €6 billion.
The EU has now requested permission from firms that have filed complaints against Google, including ecommerce sites, travel companies and price-comparison operations, to publish them so it can start to prepare its case.