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Google To Be Charged With Breaking European Antitrust Laws

The tech giant is accused of misusing its market share to promote Google platforms over those of its competitors.

Google To Be Charged With Breaking European Antitrust Laws
[Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images]

Following months of speculation, it appears that the European Commission’s competition branch is finally ready to charge search-engine giant Google with antitrust violations. According to the New York Times, the organization’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, could announce the lawsuit as early as Wednesday.

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The charges, should they materialize, would come after a nearly five-year investigation into Google’s business practices and dozens of complaints from European tech companies that the tech giant has misused its 90% European market share—compared to just 68% in the United States—to muscle out its competition. More specifically, the European Commission will likely claim that Google manipulated its search engine to favor Google-run sites over comparable, European services.

If Google goes to trial, it could face as much as 6 billion euros ($6.4 billion) in fines, or one-tenth of its annual revenue, according to the Times. That number far exceeds the record-setting $1.2 billion fine levied against Intel in 2009. From there, Google could be forced to alter its search engine to more prominently display competitors’ services–or even break up altogether, as more zealous Google critics have suggested. Meanwhile, there’s no news yet on whether the case will also address growing European concerns over the company’s tax “dodging,” or its handling of online privacy.

Stateside, Google still boasts major political clout, even receiving a vote of confidence from President Obama himself. In a February 2015 interview with Re/code, the commander-in-chief defended both Google and Facebook—recently accused of tracking European users after they closed their accounts—saying, “sometimes the European response here is more commercially driven than anything else. As I’ve said, there are some countries like Germany, given its history with the Stasi, that are very sensitive to these issues. But sometimes their vendors—their service providers who, you know, can’t compete with ours—are essentially trying to set up some roadblocks for our companies to operate effectively there.”

About the author

Nikita Richardson is an assistant editor at Fast Company magazine.

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