Google Reaches Antitrust Agreement With EC: Report

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-04-15 Print this article Print

Google holds more than 60 percent of the world's search market, with Microsoft's Bing being a distant second. Competitors have claimed that Google works its search algorithms to favor its own products and results over those of others, giving it an unfair advantage in search and Web advertising.

A ruling against Google on such charges could mean a fine of up to 10 percent of Google's annual revenue, which based on its 2011 annual results would amount to about $4 billion.

Google's legal situation in Europe continues even as a similar antitrust probe in the United States was resolved in Google's favor in January. Instead of a major antitrust prosecution in the United States, Google entered into a voluntary agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to change some of its business practices to resolve the complaints of some competitors about Google's practices.

In the FTC case, key competitor Microsoft had led a fight with other technology companies to argue for strong FTC actions against Google to punish it for what they believed were unfair business practices.

Those competitors, meanwhile, launched a fresh new offensive against Google in the EU earlier this month by filing a complaint with the EU concerning Google's free Android mobile operating system. The complaint argues that Google's free Android mobile operating system is illegally trying to dominate the market through deception and predatory pricing.

The new complaint was filed by a group called FairSearch Europe with the EC even as the EU continued its almost two-year-long probe into Google's search practices in Europe. The group alleged in its complaint that Google is following an "anti-competitive strategy to dominate the mobile marketplace and cement its control over consumer Internet data for online advertising as usage shifts to mobile."

The complaint before the EC comes as the marketplace rivalry between Google and Microsoft appears to be growing exponentially. In early March, reports surfaced that it was Google that had turned Microsoft in involving a recent case in which Microsoft had failed to offer a choice of Web browsers to early users of its Windows 7 computer operating system, which the company must do as part of a 2009 settlement regarding the same issue. In that case, the EU fined Microsoft $732 million.

Microsoft apologized for what it called a "technical error" that led to the problem in about 28 million PCs that were using early versions of Windows 7 with Service Pack 1, and also took "full responsibility" for the issue. Under the 2009 settlement, Microsoft was required to display a Browser Choice Screen (BCS) on PCs in Europe, where Microsoft's Internet Explorer is the default browser, and while it did in some cases, it failed to do so in others.


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