by Stephen Shankland
April 15, 2015 4:03 AM PDT
The European Commission opens a legal case that could change how Google search works — and impose a massive fine. It also begins an inquiry about Android.
Europe’s antitrust regulator dramatically escalated its case against Google on Wednesday, accusing the US tech titan of abusing its search-engine dominanceby favoring its own shopping services and also opening in-depth scrutiny of the company’s Android operating system.
Google’s actions show its own comparison-shopping results even when they’re less relevant than results from competitors, curtailing innovation at those rivals and hurting consumers, said European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a press conference.
“Dominance as such is not a problem,” Vestager said. “However, dominant companies have a responsibility not to abuse their powerful market position by restricting competition either in markets where they’re dominant or in neighboring markets.”
The EC’s action, called a statement of objections, opens the door for potentially massive fines such as those the European Commission levied against Microsoft and Intel after findings of antitrust abuses by those companies. Enforcement actions could include changes to Google’s way of doing business and a penalty as high as 10 percent of its global revenue. Given Google’s $66 billion ($62 billion euros) in revenue in 2014, that could mean a fine of up to $6.6 billion.
What’s at stake is not just a very big fine for a very wealthy tech company, though. Closer to home for consumers is the question of whether Google search will lead us to products and services from other companies or instead keep us hemmed in within Google’s ever-expanding universe of commercial activities.