EU Warns Google Of Tougher Antitrust Probe

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Google European antitrust woes are not going to go away any time soon, says the EU

Google’s antitrust headache in Europe looks set to develop into a full blown migraine after Europe’s top antitrust man warned the search engine that it would face further scrutiny.

The comments were made by outgoing European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

More Concessions

The European Commission had proposed a settlement offer in February, but the deal is currently under revision after a furious response from some companies and politicians.

According to Reuters, EU’s Almunia reportedly said that following complaints, Google’s other services will face further scrutiny. He reportedly indicated that this could mean that Google could end up with a bigger case than Microsoft, which was forced to eventually pay a $2.8bn (£1.7bn) fine after a decade-long battle with the EU watchdog.

It seems that a number of European publishers, a telecoms operator, an association of picture industries and photo libraries as well as an advertising platform have complained about Google using its dominance to promote Google+ and YouTube. It is thought that complaints have been received about the Android operating system.

Joaquin Almunia“As part of our standard practice in an Article 9 procedure – which leads to a commitments decision – and in response to our pre-rejection letters sent before the summer, some of the twenty formal complainants have given us fresh evidence and solid arguments against several aspects of the latest proposals put forward by Google,” said Almunia in a speech to the European Parliament.

“At the beginning of the month, I have communicated this to the company asking them to improve its proposals,” he said. “We now need to see if Google can address these issues and allay our concerns. If Google’s reply goes in the right direction, Article 9 proceedings will continue. Otherwise, the logical next step is to prepare a Statement of Objections.”

Responding, Google spokesman Al Verney was quoted by Reuters as saying: “We continue to work with the European Commission to resolve their concerns.”

Bitter Enemies

There are no shortage of companies wanting to make life difficult for Google. Last week, the chief executive of News Corporation Robert Thomson lambasted Google in a strongly-word letter, and urged the European Commission to crack down on Google.

And in April this year, the CEO of  German publishing house Axel Springer, also launched an extraordinary attack on Google.

Mathias Dopfner accused Google of creating an “electronic superstate”, as well as operating a protection racket and a ‘global network monopoly‘ in the digital market. He also said that his publishing house is “totally dependent” on Google and they operate in a climate of fear (of Google).

Microsoft has also been leading the fight against Google, along with Axel Springer, and British price-comparison site Foundem.

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