On Wednesday, the European Commission sent a Statement of Objections to Google, claiming that the company has abused its dominant position in the market place, and has manipulated the operating systems on Android devices to create favor for Google’s Apps.
A statement from the Commission claimed that Google has infringed on EU antitrust rules by stifling competition and harming consumers in the European Economic Area through the practice of “systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages.”
Margrethe Vestager, the European Union Commissioner in charge of competition policy, released a statement saying that the Commission wants to ensure that the EU’s antitrust rules are being followed.
“The Commission’s objective is to apply EU antitrust rules to ensure that companies operating in Europe, wherever they may be based, do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation,” Vestager said.
Vestager added that she is concerned Google “has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”
“Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary,” Vestager said. “However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.”
In an investigation the Commission started in Nov. 2010, it came to the conclusion that Google “gives systematic favorable treatment to its comparison shopping product,” called “Google Shopping,” on its search results pages, by “showing Google Shopping more prominently on the screen.”
In addition to the charges regarding market abuse, the EU has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Google’s involvement with the operating system on Android devices.
The Commission noted that since 2005, Google has “led development of the Android mobile operating system,” which has resulted in smartphone and tablet manufacturers who use the Android operating system entering into agreements with Google to “obtain the right to install Google’s applications on their Android devices.”
According to the Commission, the investigation will focus on “whether Google has entered into anti-competitive agreements or abused a possible dominant position in the field of operating systems, applications and services for smart mobile devices.”
Vestager said that because smartphones and tablets “play an increasing role in many people’s daily lives,” she wants to make sure the markets in Europe “can flourish without anticompetitive constraints imposed by any company.”
RT noted that companies such as Microsoft, TripAdvisor, and Streetmap have also made antitrust allegations against Google, claiming that “it uses its search engine to promote its own products, giving an unfair advantage over its competitors.”
Google released a statement on Wednesday, in response to the European Commission’s questions about Google’s partner agreements. The company highlighted the fact that all partner agreements are voluntary, and that while Android devices can be used without Google, the company’s Apps “provide real benefits to Android users, developers and the broader ecosystem.”
Google has 10 weeks to respond to the Statement of Objections, and it has the option to challenge the Commission in court.
The New York Times reported that if Google is found guilty of the charges, the Commission would have the option to levy a fine that “could exceed €6 billion,” which is about 10 percent of Google’s most recent annual revenue, and could be the “largest single fine yet levied in such a case.”