The European Union is taking procedural steps that indicate regulators may be preparing to send another antitrust complaint to Google. The so-called access to file requests are the latest move in a more than five-year-old standoff between the EU and the Internet search giant.
What is the EU investigating at Google?
More than five years ago, the EU started investigating whether Google unfairly promotes its own services in search results, initially focusing on Google’s comparison shopping service. A year ago, after failed efforts to settle the case, the EU added a probe into the Android operating system that powers most smartphones. It’s looking at Google’s deals with handset makers to pre-install Google apps, its bundling of products such as maps or YouTube with Android, and whether Google stops manufacturers tweaking Android.
What did the EU do recently?
European Union regulators asked companies that provided evidence as part of the Android investigation to take out sensitive business secrets that they wouldn’t want Google to see. This is a step the EU often takes before sending out a so-called statement of objections.
What is a statement of objections?
It allows the EU to set out its case, laying for all to see where officials suspect a company has violated competition rules. It starts a new process in the case that could lead to administrative hearings, court challenges or a settlement.
Will the EU send another antitrust complaint to Google?
Maybe. A year ago the EU asked companies to redact evidence weeks before EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced she had sent the complaint.
What can the EU do to Google?
The regulator can levy fines of as much as 10 percent of a company’s annual revenue, although penalties are almost never that high. Intel got a 1.06 billion-euro ($1.2 billion) fine in 2009 for deals with customers to hinder them buying from a rival. Microsoft was fined 2.24 billion euros over several years and ordered to share data to help rivals make compatible products. The EU also told it to strip out a media-player program from its software and to offer users a choice of web browser. Regulators are also looking at Google’s advertising business, including exclusivity deals such as its $1 billion payment to Apple Inc. to keep its search bar on the iPhone.