Google 'close to facing formal charges' in EU antitrust case

EU may issue formal charges against search engine giant in bid to inspire reform

European Commission

Google could face formal charges under the EU's antitrust investigation into whether the tech giant has abused its dominant search position in Europe.

The case has been running for five years already, with investigators looking at whether the search giant may be taking advantage of its overwhelming market share to benefit its own products and services.

Now, as reported by the New York Times, it is expected that Europe's antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager will file formal charges against Google.

This could result in a huge penalty for the search engine firm of up to 4.4 billion, after the case was initially brought by Michael Weber, owner of Hot-Map.com, which saw traffic drop 80 per cent - something Weber blames on Google.

Former competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia didn't file formal charges against Google, despite the EU rejecting three attempts at settlements from the tech giant.

And the NYT claimed his successor, Vestager, is close to making a statement of objections (formal charges) to pressure Google into making bigger commitments to reform its practices.

But Liza Lovdahl-Gormsen, director of the Competition Law Forum at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, told the NYT: "Google might try to buy themselves time by offering commitments that are unlikely to be accepted by the commission, and that it knows won't be accepted by the market, simply because it does not want to be faced with the intrument of torture - the statement of objections."

However, she added that Vestager is unlikely to proceed without filing the charges, simply because that approach failed under Almunia.

The news comes as EU digital commissoner, Gunther Oettinger, told German publication Die Welt that the European Commission would make a ruling in the case "very soon".

IT Pro contacted Google for a comment but had received no response at the time of publication.

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