Google not off the hook in Europe as EC reveals litany of antitrust complaints

As one probe closes, another probe opens?

With one antitrust case nearly behind it in Europe, several more may yet be about to open for Google.

Google has been the subject of a European antitrust investigation lasting several years into its search and advertising practices. In February, the EC's competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia announced the company had finally come up with a package of measures to address the abuse of its dominance of the search market in Europe.

Now, according to Almunia, the Commission has sent out letters to those behind the initial complaints about Google. The so-called pre-rejection letters detail how the EC believes the settlement solves competition concerns.

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Once they've received the pre-rejection letters, complainants will then be able to offer their feedback on the settlement, and state whether they believe it goes far enough.

"This means that the Commission is currently in listening mode and will carefully review all the responses we will receive" over the coming weeks, Almunia told the Chatham House Competition Policy Conference on Monday. Based on the feedback, the EC will then decide whether the settlement needs to be revisisted.

Almunia admitted that some of Google's proposed remedies have already proved unpopular. Nonetheless, the commissioner appears to believe the case will soon be put to bed, saying: "This means that the current investigation is probably drawing to an end, but I suspect this case is only the beginning of further EU antitrust enforcement in the digital economy."

Almunia said the EC is gathering information into several other antitrust matters relating to Google, including complaints that Android may be anticompetitive. "The Commission is investigating certain Google practices relating to the Android ecosystem. We are currently in the fact-finding stage and formal proceedings have not been opened," Almunia said.

He added: "We are currently trying to ascertain whether there are unjustified restrictions of competition in this area. Just a few days ago, a formal complaint was lodged by Aptoide , a rival apps store to Google Play Store."

The commissioner also revealed that a number of antitrust complaints have been lodged with the Commission on separate matters. Among the complaints are an objection to "Google's alleged attempt to put pressure on independent music labels to extract better terms for its new streaming service on YouTube", objections to Google's use of images from third-party sites, allegations that Google's promotion of its own services such as YouTube and Google+ is anticompetitive, and complaints about the terms and conditions Google uses for AdWords and AdSense.

Companies that have filed the complaints with the EC include publishers, a telco, a trade group for picture industries and photo libraries, and an advertising platform.

The Commission is now looking into each of the complaints. "We are following our usual procedures. At present, we are conducting preliminary analyses and these will allow us to decide whether we will have to open new proceedings. [The EC competition commission's] expert staff will look into these and possibly future allegations for quite some time. Google'ss compliance with EU competition law will be closely monitored," Almunia said.

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