It’s been a bad news week for Google. On Monday, outgoing EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia reopened the four-year antitrust investigation into the internet company, before saying on Wednesday that it’s very unlikely a settlement would be reached by the time he leaves office in October.
Ouch. And just when Google thought it and the EU were starting to get along.
It gets worse too. If the company was hoping to deal with some Eurocrats with a bit more Googliness after Almunia leaves, the signs are it may find itself disappointed. Although Almunia’s replacement, former Danish finance minister Margrethe Vestager, has yet to declare her position on Google, another new(ish) commissioner has already launched his own attack.
Within hours of moving from his post as energy commissioner to take over the EU’s digital brief yesterday, Gunther Oettinger said that Google’s market power could be limited, adding that he would work to ensure the company’s search results were neutral and impartial. He may not have the final say in the antitrust investigation, but it's hardly a good sign.
Google’s unpopularity among EU commissioners could have something to do with its colossal supremacy in the search engine market, with roughly 95% of European searches conducted through the site (go on, hands up if you haven’t used it today).
The EU’s investigation focuses more precisely on Google's alleged prioritising its own services such as Youtube and Google Maps on searches, restricting rivals from advertising on sites that use Google Ads and copying content from other search engines.
While protesting its innocence, Google has been trying to negotiate a settlement, but the signs aren’t looking good. Potentially it faces formal charges, hefty fines and even the breakup of some of its services if the EU finds against it. Who's being evil here?