Google’s Mounting Troubles in the European Union

Michael In the News

Over the past decade Google has taken over the internet search market.  ‘Just Google it’ has become a common phrase for searching the internet for information. Its search engine, however, has been under constant scrutiny. Two years ago, Google was able to side step an antitrust lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. The FTC ruled that although changes to the tech company’s search protocols were “problematic”, Google ultimately did not violate any U.S. antitrust laws and was able to escape generally unscathed. But, trouble is brewing abroad for the monstrous tech company.

Current lawsuits in Europe have the potential to be much more dangerous. The Europe Commission (EC) has been investigating Google for years spanning two different commissioners. The antitrust violation charge comes after Google already lost their first fight with the EU over the right to be forgotten, which forces the search engine to remove old and unwanted links from their search results.

Since that ruling just over a year ago, Google has processed 253,617 requests covering almost a million URLs. Of those, they have approved about 40%.  The current antitrust lawsuit that the EC filed on April 15th has the potential to harvest $6 billion from the search engine giant. The lawsuit alleges that Google provides its own products or products of those companies that pay to be listed first at the top, leaving potentially more relevant, and better, competitor choices out.

When the EC filed its statements of objections the clock started ticking for Google. They have 10 weeks to provide evidence and produce a response in writing. Even though Google faced a similar lawsuit in the U.S., this case is drastically different. Most importantly the EC will not take into account ‘rule of reason’ which the FTC did. The use of ‘rule of reason’ takes into account practices of competitors, such as altering rankings within other search engines.

Unfortunately for Google, even if they are able to settle out of court for the antitrust lawsuit, the EC has also opened a separate investigation into their Android market practices.

This is not the first time the EU has gone against massive tech companies. Besides the aforementioned ‘right to be forgotten’ lawsuit, the EU has gone after Microsoft for not offering other internet browsing options besides Internet Explorer. That lawsuit ended up costing Microsoft over $1.8 billion over 10 years. Intel also received the wrath of EU antitrust laws after doing shady, under-table dealings, with computer manufacturers. That resulted in a $1.4 Billion fine, and a $6.5 million fine by the New York attorney general here in the U.S.

The EU is also in the midst of probing and challenging three other large companies. Amazon is under investigation for charging drastically different prices across European countries. Facebook is under investigation for their privacy policies. And the EU is probing Apple about their newly acquired Beats online streaming service and recording deals made.