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Proving Google's abuse could be difficult for the EU

Loek Essers | April 16, 2015
A multibillion dollar fine imposed on Google is unlikely, one antitrust expert said.

Nevertheless, the Commission's decision to formally charge Google is welcome, as the allegations against Google now have to be formulated in a more precise way, he said, adding that this is going to be a test bed for future antitrust cases.

Meanwhile, ICOMP, an industry association representing Google opponents including Microsoft, said the Commission has finally recognized that European consumers and businesses have been harmed by Google's illegal conduct. Google has a long track record of ignoring EU laws and questioning the legitimacy of regulators investigating its conduct, ICOMP said. It added that throughout the Commission investigation, Google has tried to divert attention away from its illegal behavior. Any further attempts to do this must be firmly rejected, it added.

If the Commission finds that Google has violated the law the search giant will probably have to adjust its business practices. It could also be fined up to 10 percent of its annual global turnover, which in Google's case could amount to US$6.6 billion.

However, it is very unlikely that a fine would be that high, said Lamadrid. To date, the highest Commission fine has been $1.06 billion, imposed on Intel. It would also be conceivable that there will be no fine for Google even if an infringement were to be found.

The Commission in the past has already negotiated commitments with Google and this indicates that it wasn't planning to impose a fine. Commitment decisions are appropriate when the Commission does not intend to impose a fine, said Lamadrid, the expert from the Garrigues law firm. And in the past, the Commission did not issue fines when the case was considered to be novel, which can be said of the Google case, he added.

Google has 10 weeks to respond to the Commission's charges.

 

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