Google faces heavy fines in Europe

A fine for Google is looking more than likely as the European Competition Commission seeks to end the years-long dispute over the search engine’s market abuse.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is about to issue Google a Statement of Objections, which some in the media have described as “the first step on a path to punitive measures.”

The Google search dominance case is on the table for the meeting of all Commissioners on 15 April. The case argues that Google has been abusing its position as the dominant force in the search engine market, favouring its own services, imposing restrictive contracts on advertisers and scrapping content from other sites.

Vestager’s predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, decided not to go for such a firm approach, instead opting for a softly softly approach, and wanted Google to form a set of measures which would force it to stop abusing its dominant position.

These measures, once determined, would become legally binding. But Almunia’s term ran out before his job was done, and now Vestager has decided to approach the matter more firmly.

According to David Wood, legal counsel for the ICOMP group which represents Google’s opponents: “There are clear signs that this is the way it’s going. We see positive signs that the Commissioner thinks a statement of objections is the right move for competition,” he told El Reg.

In order to investigate the matter fully, Vestager wanted to know the consequences of Google’s actions: “To decide how to take our investigations forward, I need to know what those most directly affected by the practices in question have to say. I need to have a representative sample of views of those concerned. I have to be sure that we have all the facts up to date to get it right.”

Vestager could fine Google up to 10 per cent of its annual turnover.