Margrethe Vestager, EU’s Competition Commissioner, plans to accuse Google of an illegal abuse of its market dominance as a search engine. If successful, this move could make Google pay hefty fines and ultimately also change its business model. The Commission says that the company breached antitrust rules by diverting traffic from competitors to help its own services. The case has already been coined as “one of the defining anti-trust cases of the internet era”. Some think that it might be very similar to a decade-long battle with Microsoft that cost the software giant €2bn in fines.
The accusation comes after five years of investigations that Google almost managed to settle without charges in 2014. The draft agreement, however, collapsed after France, Germany along with some of Europe’s most powerful telecom and media companies had complained about the terms of the settlement. The EU anti-trust case is a nuisance to many Silicon Valley companies, which were once praised in Europe for their innovativeness and entrepreneurial spirit and now are criticized for their misuse of personal data and market dominance.
A decision on charges will be taken by 28 EU Commissioners today (April 25) as well. Some of them are, however, concerned that Ms Vestager has narrowed and restructured the Google case, which she had inherited from her predecessor Joaquin Almunia, too much. On the top of the market dominance issue, Google has been accused of scrapping content from rivals, making hard to transfer campaigns to rival search engines, and locking publishers into using Google search ads. It is the first time that Google has been formally accused of wrongdoing. The Commission has the power to impose major curbs on Google’s business operations and practices as well as fine the company to up to 10 percent of Google’s global turnover.