EU Slaps Google (GOOG) With Formal Antitrust Charges

Shares of search giant Google (GOOG) are down by more than five points to $525.12 in early trade Wednesday, following reports the European Union has filed charges against the company for illegally abusing its overwhelming dominance of online search by promoting its own services unfairly over the services of competitors. The EU also said it opened a separate probe into Google’s Android mobile system, the most popular mobile OS in the world, raising the stakes in the five-year antitrust battle.

In a statement, European antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said the U.S. tech giant had been sent a charge sheet to which it can respond.

“I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules,” she said. “If the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.”

Responding to the commission’s announcement, Google said in a blog post that it “strongly” disagreed with the EU’s statement.

“While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways — and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark,” Google said.

“If you look at shopping — an area where we have seen a lot of complaints and where we understand the European Commission will focus its Statement of Objections — it’s clear that (a) there’s a ton of competition (including from Amazon and eBay, two of the biggest shopping sites in the world) and (b) Google’s shopping results have not harmed the competition,” it added.

The EU Commission can fine firms up to 10% of their annual sales, meaning Google faces fines of as much as $6.6 billion, based on last year’s revenue, if the charges are proven.

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