updated 10:40 am EST, Wed January 18, 2012
EU may start formal Google dispute in two months
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia in a discussion late Tuesday raised the possibility that a formal antitrust dispute with Google could start in late March. He informed Reuters that comments from investigators would come in near the end of the quarter, which ends that month, and that he didn't "expect anything sooner" for a full complaint. Leaks had tipped an early 2012 filing, if it went ahead at all, but hadn't been corroborated directly until now.
A look into Google's practices started in earnest early last year, when Microsoft publicly complained, accusing Google of skewing search results and giving Windows Phone's YouTube app no real assistance.
Any complaint would center on Google allegedly abusing its dominance of web search to promote its own products. Among existing concerns are that it might be burying competing results, favoring its own deal services, and possibly dictating unfair terms on using Google search in Android. Google has always maintained that, through the nature of the web, visitors aren't locked into using its sites and can go elsewhere.
EU investigations can take years to process, but can have far-reaching implications. Microsoft through European Commission rulings has had to produce source code for its key platforms, unbundle Windows Media Player, and offer a choice of browser on first startup. Google could be made to offer truly neutral results or offer more guarantees that an Android partner can use Bing or an alternative engine without having to lose features.
Google could also be fined 10 percent of its annual revenue, which could lead to billions of dollars in fines.