A European Commission antitrust probe into Google might result in the search giant having to make changes to its Android platform, according to a new report from the Financial Times.
The two sides, led by EU competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia, have been negotiating for weeks, but if a deal is not reached, Google could face a multi-billion dollar fine, the newspaper said.
The case dates back to November 2010, when the commission announced that it opened an antitrust investigation into Google over allegations that the company had abused its dominant position in online search. Since then, the EU has "conducted a large-scale market investigation," Almunia said in May. At that point, the commissioner asked that Google change the way it displays its search results and alter the agreements it has with advertisers, among other things.
Google recently responded to Almunia's demands but the company is apparently not willing to give in on every point. The FT described current negotiations as "on a knife-edge."
Exact details of Android-related demands are not known, though the FT said they are "sweeping." Given that mobile is now a major part of Google's business, as it acknowledged on yesterday's earnings call, the fact that the EU investigation covers the Google-owned Android OS isn't too shocking. Overall, Almunia is concerned that Google is giving its own products preference in search and demanding unfair terms with advertisers. Google has denied any wrongdoing.
The US Federal Trade Commission is investigating Google on similar grounds. During a recent appearance at the D10 conference, FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said the agency is "in the middle" of its investigation into Google's business practices and has not yet decided whether to bring a case against the search giant.