How Google and the EU Got to This Point: A Timeline

Google Success Brings Scrutiny by EU

Google Inc. faces a formal antitrust complaint from the European Union after a probe punctuated by aborted settlements and a demand from EU lawmakers for a possible breakup of the search-engine giant.

Here’s a timeline of the case since 2010:

* February 2010: Joaquin Almunia starts to examine Microsoft Corp.’s antitrust complaint against Google as he takes over as the EU’s competition commissioner.

* Nov. 30, 2010: The European Commission announces an antitrust probe “into allegations that Google has abused a dominant position in online search.” The EU says it suspected Google of lowering the ranking of competitors in vertical search results such as price-comparison services.

* December 2010: Complaints by German publishers are added to the EU’s antitrust case.

* March 2011: Microsoft Corp. expands its complaint beyond Internet searches to online video and mobile phones.

* May 21, 2012: Almunia says he asked Google to come forward with an antitrust settlement offer.

* July 2, 2012: EU says Google submits the outline of its first set of concessions.

* Dec. 18, 2012: Almunia says he expects detailed commitments following a meeting with Chairman Eric Schmidt.

* Feb. 1, 2013: Almunia announces Google submitted a full offer to settle the antitrust probe.

* Feb. 22, 2013: Google may reach a settlement in the second half of the year, Almunia says.

* March 21, 2013: Eleven companies, including TripAdvisor Inc., Expedia Inc. and the German newspaper publishers’ association, ask Almunia in an open letter to send Google formal objections.

* April 9, 2013: A group representing Microsoft, Expedia and Nokia Oyj file an antitrust complaint against Google over its Android operating system. The group says the EU should investigate Google’s “deceptive conduct to lockout competition” in the mobile market.

* Oct. 1, 2013: Almunia says Google may be able to settle early 2014 after the company bettered its offer to alter how it shows search results.

* Dec. 20, 2013: Almunia rejects Google’s proposal, saying the company has only a “little time left” to settle.

* Feb. 5, 2014: Almunia says that Google made a new settlement offer that includes a five-year pledge allowing the company to add new services or alter its search page as long as it grants three links to rival services next to its own specialized search results such as Google Shopping. Google suggests a bidding process for a spot in a shaded box on some of its search pages.

* Feb. 12, 2014: Almunia’s proposed deal with Google is criticized at a meeting by Viviane Reding, the EU’s then justice commissioner, and Michel Barnier, who led financial-services policy, two people familiar with the matter say.

* April 2014: Mathias Doepfner, CEO of Germany’s biggest newspaper publisher Axel Springer SE, says he’s afraid of Google in open letter to Google’s Schmidt.

* May 15, 2014: Open Internet Project, a group representing publishers Axel Springer and Lagardere SCA, says it filed an antitrust complaint with European Union regulators over Google’s behavior.

* May 20, 2014: German and French ministers write to Almunia to criticize his plan to settle the case.

* June 5, 2014: Almunia says EU is writing to companies that complained about Google to say it’s going to reject their formal complaints.

* June 26, 2014: Google’s YouTube music website faces an antitrust complaint filed with EU regulators by Impala, a group of independent record labels. Impala says that YouTube violated EU competition law with threats to block artists’ videos during talks on “non-negotiable contracts” for its new subscription streaming service.

* July 2014: Google may have to make extra concessions to rescue a settlement amid mounting opposition from technology companies and politicians, a person familiar with the case says.

* Sept. 10, 2014: Almunia says time has run out in his two-year long quest to clinch a settlement with Google.

* Nov. 1, 2014: New EU Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, takes over.

* Nov. 11, 2014: Vestager says that the issues in the antitrust probe of Google are multifaceted and complex and she will need time to decide on the next steps in the investigation.

* Nov. 27, 2014: European lawmakers vote for the commission to consider breaking up search engines to bolster competition. The European Parliament backed a resolution by 384 votes to 174, asking the commission to consider “unbundling search engines from other commercial services.” The motion, which isn’t binding, didn’t mention Google by name.

* December 2014: Google’s rivals are questioned by EU regulators as Vestager weighs the next steps in the antitrust probe.

* March 2, 2015: Google Chairman Eric Schmidt meets with Vestager.

* March 2015: Google’s antitrust foes are asked to allow the search-engine giant to see secret evidence they gave to EU regulators in a sign that officials could be preparing to escalate their investigation, according two people familiar with the case.

* March 19, 2015: Key U.S. Federal Trade Commission staff concluded in 2012 that Google abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users, competitors, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a staff report. The document recommended a lawsuit challenging three separate Google practices.

* April, 15, 2015: EU sends Google a formal statement of objections, or SO, “for abusing its dominance in the search-engine market by systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages.” Vestager also steps up a probe into its Android operating system for mobile phones and tablets.

While an SO doesn’t rule out the chance of a settlement, it’s typically the first step toward antitrust fines for abuses of antitrust law.

Google, which has always denied any wrongdoing, has the right to defend itself in writing and at an oral hearing. While possible penalties for antitrust violations can be as high as 10 percent of a company’s revenue, the company can challenge any penalties at the EU’s courts in Luxembourg.

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