European Union Slams Case on Google With Search Antitrust Charges

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The European Commission has charged Google with abusing its dominant position in Internet search services in Europe by systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product,Google Shopping.

It also opened an antitrust investigation into Google’s Android mobile operating system.

Such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers,adding that it has formally notified Google of the charges in a so-called Statement of Objections.

Google now gets a chance to defend itself before the Commission makes a final decision,which could include a fine of up to 10 percent of company’s annual turnover.

European Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Google used Android as vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine.

European regulators fined Google a record $5 billion (7.4 billion NZD) and ordered changes that could affect which Google-owned apps appear on smartphones and tablets running its Android  mobile operating system.

The steep penalties from Margrethe Vestager,the European Union’s competition chief,marks the second time in as many years that the region has found that Google wields its power in a way that harms competition and consumers.In this case,Vestager faulted Google for using Android as a means to solidify its strong foothold in search and advertising ,while making it harder for rivals to offer competing apps and services.

Aiming at Android

At the same,the Commission also opened a separate antitrust investigation into Google’s mobile operating system Android.

It suspects Google of abusing its dominant position by,among other things,requiring device manufactures to bundle Google’s own services and applications with the open-source operating system.

The Commission has received two complaints concerning Android and will focus on three allegations.First,Google is said to have required that smartphone and tablet manufactures exclusively pre-installed Google applications on their devices,which could be anti-competitive as it would prevent rivals from being successful.

Second,Google is suspected of having prevented manufactures who want to use Google apps from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android on other devices.

This practice would be illegal as to would be prevent rival operating systems from entering the market,the Commission said.

A Long Time

The decision to send Google a Statement of Objections is the next step in an antitrust investigation that has been dragging since November 2010,when the Commission decided to open an inquiry.

Google has tried to settle the case several times.

Google has ten weeks to respond to the Statement of Objections and the Commission said it will carefully consider its comments before taking a decision.As to the investigation into Android,no deadline to complete inquiries has been set.

As antitrust investigations can vary wildly in complexity and scope the Commission does not have to  set  a time frame in which it has to complete an investigation.

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