Google faces antitrust charges from Europe

If found guilty, Google could face a fine of over $6 billion

BRUSSELS — The European Commission has accused Google of abusing its dominance in web searches in favor of its shopping service.

The EC has also launched an antitrust probe into Google’s Android mobile operating system to determine whether the company is requiring and incentivizing manufacturers to favor its apps and services.  

During a press conference in Brussels today, Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, issued Google with a "statement of objections" – the final step in the EC’s five-year investigation into suspected violations of antitrust law.

"In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary.

"However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe," said Vestager in a statement.

On the Android probe, she commented: "Smartphones, tablets and similar devices play an increasing role in many people's daily lives and I want to make sure the markets in this area can flourish without anticompetitive constraints imposed by any company."

If found guilty, Google could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual revenues, or about $6.4 billion (based on its latest financial figures from 2014).

"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 off the mark," Google said in a blog post on Wednesday.

In a separate post on the Android complaint, Google wrote: "The European Commission has asked questions about our partner agreements.  It's important to remember that these are voluntary—again, you can use Android without Google—but provide real benefits to Android users, developers and the broader ecosystem."

Verstager’s stand comes after her predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, was criticized by the company's rivals for not brokering a strong enough antitrust agreement last year. She is attending meetings in New York and Washington DC this week.

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