EU May Make Decision on Google Case Within Months: JudgeAoife White and Andrea Gerlin
European Union antitrust regulators probing Google Inc. may make a decision on what to do with the case within months, according to a U.K. judge who has seen confidential EU letters linked to a London lawsuit.
Judge Peter Roth delayed until July 2016 the start of a civil lawsuit against Google to give the EU more time to conduct its probe. Roth received two letters from the European Commission about overlaps between its investigation and the lawsuit filed by Foundem, a price comparison website whose complaints helped trigger the four-year-old EU probe.
“It seems reasonable to anticipate that the commission will have progressed its investigation” by the early autumn, Roth told a London court on Wednesday as he decided to delay the trial for approximately five months. “Google should not have these allegations hanging over it,” the judge said, referring to the U.K. trial.
Roth said the EU hasn’t decided whether to seek a new settlement that would allow it to close its Google probe without imposing fines. Google is one of the EU’s highest-profile cases, attracting numerous complaints alleging that the company abuses its monopoly position to steer traffic away from rivals and to its own services.
Following failed attempts to settle the case in the past two years, EU regulators have sought to update their evidence in recent months and asked some rivals to declassify information, people familiar with the case said last month. In antitrust cases, the EU can step up a probe by sending antitrust objections setting out where a company’s behavior may violate competition law.
Some of Foundem’s six allegations “may significantly overlap” with the EU investigation, Roth told the court. Foundem is seeking compensation for lost revenue from when it says it lost traffic when Google pushed down its website in search results.
Mountain View, California-based Google didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment. Ricardo Cardoso, an EU spokesman, declined to comment on the London case.
The case is Infederation v. Google, High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, No. HC12A02489.