Google’s Skirmishes With EU’s Antitrust Regulator Since 2010

EU Sends Objections Over Android Pacts With Manufacturers
  • Grouping of Microsoft, Expedia files Android complaint in 2013
  • Google got EU statement of objections over search last year

The European Commission’s decision to throw the book at Google over its Android operating system for smartphones and tablets marks a new low point in a six-year clash with antitrust authorities amid mounting concerns the Internet giant may be abusing its dominance.

Wednesday’s move comes a year after Brussels officials accused the Internet giant of abusing its dominance of the search-engine market to favor its own comparison shopping service above rivals.

Here’s a timeline of the cases since 2010:

* February 2010: Joaquin Almunia, who just began his term as EU antitrust chief, 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.

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

* 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 files 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.

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

* 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.

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

* 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

* 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.

* 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. “Every road is open,” Vestager says, stating that Google can still escape fines if it manages to put together a settlement offer addressing the EU’s concerns.

* June 2, 2015: Google is accused of violating EU antitrust rules in a complaint filed with the European Commission by app maker Disconnect.

* August 27, 2015: Google ridicules as “peculiar and problematic” demands by European Union antitrust regulators to change the way it displays search results as the U.S. Internet giant filed its reply to the EU’s April complaint.

* November 10, 2015: Google faces a fresh round of European Union questions about Android as regulators seek to know whether Google Maps for phones has supplanted portable or in-car navigation devices, such as those produced by TomTom NV and the HERE unit of Nokia.

* November 13, 2015: Yandex NV, building on a recent antitrust victory over Google in Russia, says it extended the legal battle to the European Union as it seeks to force its U.S. competitor to unbundle services such as search from mobile devices using the Android operating system in the region.

* February 22, 2016: The European Union revives a probe into Google’s advertising practices by quizzing companies involved in online advertising in recent weeks about the Internet giant’s behavior, according to three people with knowledge of the investigation.

* April 20, 2016: Commission sends formal antitrust complaint to Google on its Android operating system, accusing the company of striking restrictive contracts that prevent makers of tablets and phones from adding competing apps and web browsers. The company also pays phone makers and telecoms operators to only install its search app on phones, the commission said

on Android system and applications.

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