Google may have gotten a pass in the US a few years ago from the Federal TradeCommission, which decided not to sue the search giant for alleged anticompetitive practices, but the company may not be so lucky in Europe.
Antitrust officials at the European Commission are expected to “file formal charges” against the search giant soon, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Earlier this week, a leaked report from the FTC showed that key staffers at the agency wanted to sue Google after their probe in 2012, saying it abused its monopoly power. They said that
Google threatened to remove websites from its Search feature if companies like Amazon and Yelp didn’t comply and let Google use their content.
But after Google made some changes, FTC commissioners unanimously voted to not bring charges and the investigation was closed.
But in Europe, the antitrust probe continues. Google has a 90% plus search share in the European market — but it also has a caustic relationship with authorities on the continent. In November, the European Parliament decided in a non-binding vote to break up Google and spin off the company’s Search component. Google is at least aware of the hostile regulatory climate it faces in Europe — in February, Google overhauled its European operations and appointed a single executive at its head.
Spanish lawmaker and European Parliament member Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, who has been an outspoken critic of the company, said: “This new… evidence is crucial and could not come at better time,” regarding the leaked FTC report.
In response to criticism, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said: “At end of the day, the FTC commission made their decision and we agree with that,” according to the WSJ.
There are other complaints from Europe about Google too. Per Business Insider’s Rob Price:
- Accusations of tax avoidance. Google — along with other Silicon Valley giants — has been attacked over financial arrangements that significantly lower its tax bills. Matt Brittin — Google Europe’s new boss — was infamously grilled by British MPs over the issue (see below).
- The right to be forgotten. Following a ruling in May 2014, European citizens can appeal to Google to have “outdated” or “irrelevant” information removed from search listings about them. Google fiercely opposes the ruling, but it has implemented the takedown system.
- Publishing conflicts. Spain recently attempted to charge Google for linking to articles by Spanish publishers. Google refused to pay up, instead closing down its Google News service in the country.
Other companies are also investigating Google’s business practices, the WSJ reports, including Taiwan, Brazil, Canada, and India.