Google facing costly antitrust lawsuit in Europe

Investigation in to whether Google abused its dominant position in Europe is drawing to a close, and formal charges against the search giant seem imminent.

If that happens, and Google is found guilty for abusing its position as the dominant search engine in Europe, it’s facing fines of up to £4.4 billion.

Investigators have been looking at whether Google has abused its large search market share by pushing its own products, as Microsoft and other companies look for more competition in areas like maps, shopping and search.

It’s been five years since Europe’s antitrust commission started looking at the issue, and some legal analysts now expect Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to file formal charges against Google, Sky News reported.

This could increase pressure on Google to settle to avoid a formal finding of wrongdoing and a massive fine.

However, Google would not be the first company to get fined for abusing its dominant market position: Intel was fined back in 2009 with £800 million for its competition offences, and Microsoft was hit with fines totalling almost £1.4 billion over a decade for antitrust-related issues.

So far, Google has offered three different settlements to resolve the case, including giving competing products bigger visibility on the site and making it easier to advertisers to move their campaigns to rivals.

Some experts say that former Commissioner Mr. Almunia’s unsuccessful strategy makes further attempts to settle the case without formal charges unlikely, New York Times reports.

“Given the history of failed attempts to reach a commitment decision, I just don’t see what she would gain from going down this route again, unless Google has promised more concessions that we don’t know about,” said Liza Lovdahl-Gormsen, the director of the Competition Law Forum at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.