Europe to lay out Google antitrust report by March

The European Commission hopes to tell Google by the end of the first quarter precisely what allegations it faces from Microsoft and search rivals, in its preliminary findings
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Google should discover within months the precise antitrust complaints Microsoft has made against it in Europe, after regulators said they expect to release preliminary findings by the end of March.

European Commission HQ

Google should find out the precise antitrust charges against it in Europe by the end of March, the European Commission has said.

The European Commission has been investigating Google since November 2010 over allegations it has abused its dominant position in search. There are 10 complainants, including Microsoft and price-comparison sites such as UK-based Foundem and Microsoft-owned Ciao.

"By the end of the first quarter [of 2012], we will probably be in a position to conclude on the nature of the concerns given the evidence gathered," a Commission spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

If the Commission's timing works out, it will issue a preliminary finding, or 'statement of objections', that will reportedly run to more than 400 pages.

This document will serve to formally inform Google of the precise objections against it. Google will then get to defend itself. After that, if the Commission decides an infringement has taken place, it will be able to order Google to change its behaviour and pay a large fine.

Foundem, Ciao and a French legal search engine called Ejustice.fr made their complaints to the regulators in early 2010, saying Google was ranking results from their competing services too far down its lists.

Google entered into talks with the Commission over the allegations in February last year, shortly before Microsoft added its own complaints to the mix.

Microsoft claims Google does not allow rival search engines such as Bing to offer rich links to videos on YouTube, which is owned by the search giant. In addition, it says Google stops Windows Phones from providing complex YouTube functionality.

European regulators have also been asked by Microsoft to look into Google's e-book plans and search-box exclusivity. Another area of investigation concerns the restrictions Google places on the access its advertising customers have to their own data.

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