EU to decide on Google antitrust case after Easter

European antitrust authorities will not decide Google's fate until after the Easter vacation, on April 10 or beyond, as pressure mounts on the regulator for a snappy decision.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Europe certainly isn't +1'ing Google any time soon, amid a data protection law-breaking privacy policy, and a looming antitrust case which could fine the search giant billions.

Europe's antitrust chief said he would not bow down to pressure over a decision to charge Google for allegedly abusing its dominance in the search market, or to let the search giant off scot-free.


EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia set out a rough time frame for a decision earlier this year by the end of March or early April. On Wednesday, he told reporters that the decision would be thought over and considered for as long as necessary, pointing towards after the Easter holidays for a decision.

"(The case team) has asked me for some more days, even weeks, because next week we have holidays for some people," Almunia said. "Maybe after Easter we will have some more clear consideration."

"We want to advance in our investigation but we want to advance on a solid basis, not because of a letter or some pressures," he added, according to Reuters.

But with Google's alleged misdemeanour hanging over the search giant's head, a result cannot come soon enough.

In a nutshell, Google is accused of using its own search service to direct and guide users into subscribing or downloading its other services, and pushing down rivals' competing services' search results.

Microsoft, Expedia, and many others have complained to the European authorities.

Google will want to avoid a drawn out case like Microsoft's antitrust trial, and will likely settle given the opportunity.

Microsoft's run-in with the European regulators lasted nearly 10 years, and was forced to offer not only a different version of Windows without its trademark media player, but was also forced to offer a "browser ballot" to European citizens in form of a software update to give them greater consumer choice.

If found to have broken European competition laws, the Commission can issue a heavy and weighty "statement of objections"; a modern way of 'throwing the book' at the search giant.

Google will typically be given a chance to fix the problems and issue its apologies, but could still face heavy financial sanctions. That aside, perhaps worse for Google, is being issued with rules to abide by of how it should operate its business within the four corners of Europe.

April 8 has been thrown around as the day of the Easter vacation starting, with a decision as soon as April 10 once the European Commission comes back to work after the break.

But Europe does not typically rush decisions that could impose heavy fines or prosecutions on companies or individuals. Even when working with their U.S. Department of Justice counterparts in recent cases, such as the rubber-stamping of the Google--Motorola merger, where the timing lined up quite nicely, European authorities tend to take as much time as they require.

Should Google be found to be flouting European antitrust laws, it could be fined up to 10 percent of its annual turnover – thought to be in the region of $3--4 billion (€2.3--3bn).

Image source: Spencer E. Holtaway/Flickr.


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