Google has now been involved with Europe’s antitrust regulators for five years. But its troubles may just be beginning.
Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Monday that her agency is looking at a broad variety of services from Googleand its new parent company Alphabet.
This goes beyond Google’s online shopping comparison service — which the EU brought formal antitrust charges against in April and to which Google is currently responding. And it goes beyond the EU’s “high priority” investigation into Android, the Google mobile operating system used on the vast majority of the world’s smartphones.
Google’s maps business, its online travel services, its ad business, and various other services are on the agenda as well, Vestager said.
“The shopping case may have similarities when we eventually look at maps and travel and a number of other related services, because the complaints sort of tell the same story,” Vestager said. “But there is no such thing as you have done one, you’ve done them all. You can’t do that.”
That’s bad news for Google, which would like to avoid the kind of protracted regulatory scrutiny that famously distracted Microsoft in the 2000s (and some argue, slowed the company down so much that it fell behind rivals and missed the boat on the tech industry’s shift to mobile computing).
Of course, Vestager’s strong comments could simply be a negotiating tactic. As she seeks to force Google into a satisfactory settlement of the existing shopping and Android cases, suggesting that the EU will be targetting every other Google business for the foreseeable future is one way to make Google’s lawyers take the EU seriously.
We’ve reached out to Google and will respond if we hear back.