Google to face antitrust charges in Europe

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By Larry Banks

Google managed to avoid being sued for anticompetitive practices by the US Federal Trade Commission several years ago, but the company looks like it won’t be so lucky in Europe.

Google to face European antitrust charges next month

According to the Wall Street Journal, officials at the European Commission will “file formal charges” against the US-based search giant soon.

Earlier in the week, a report leaked from the FTC that shows key members of the agency wanted to sue Google after the 2012 probe, saying that it abused its monopoly power. They claim that Google threatened to remove websites from its search results if companies such as Amazon and Yelp did not let Google use their content.

After Google made changes, FTC commissioners voted not to bring any charges and the investigation was closed. However, in Europe the antitrust investigation continues. Google has more than 90% search share in the European market, but it also has a fraught relationship with authorities there. In November 2015, the European Parliament decided in a non-binding vote to break up Google and spin off the Search component. Google is of course well aware of the hostile regulatory climate in Europe and in February overhauled its European operations and appointed a single executive as its head.

Ramon Tremosa i Balcells.

Lawmaker and European Parliament member Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, who is an outspoken critic of the company, said “This new… evidence is crucial and could not come at better time,” regarding the leaked FTC report.

Google Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, said “At end of the day, the FTC commission made their decision and we agree with that”, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Europe also has other complaints about Google, such as accusations of tax avoidance, the controversial ‘right to be forgotten’ rules, and conflicts about publishing content – in this case Spain tried recently to charge Google for linking to articles by Spanish publishers, but Google refused to pay and instead closed its Google News service in the country.

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