European Commission set to rule on Google anti-trust case "very soon"

After five years of dispute, the European Commission is said to be close to deciding if Google should face formal anti-trust charges

The European Commission (EC) is imminently expected to make a call on whether Google will face formal anti-trust charges, half a decade after it started investigating the firm’s search practices.

The search giant has been at the centre of an EC-led anti-trust probe since November 2010, following claims it was unfairly favouring its own services, over its competitors, when returning results to internet users.

Since then, there have been numerous attempts on both sides to reach a voluntary settlement in the case, with Google promising in October 2013 to make a series of concessions to allay the commission’s concerns about the way it operates.

In May 2014, it looked like the case might finally be drawing to a close, when former European Commission vice-president Joaquin Almunia spoke publicly about the changes Google had agreed to make to encourage greater competition in the internet search space.

These changes were fiercely opposed by Google’s competitors, including Microsoft, which claimed the proposals weren’t far-reaching enough and could pave the way for further difficulties later down the line.

Almunia stepped down in October 2014, and had previously said he’d hoped to have reached a resolution in the case before his departure, but failed to do so.

Read more about Google's anti-trust case

This responsibility has now fallen on his successor, Margrethe Vestager, who is said to be planning an announcement outlining whether or not formal charges will be taken against Google in the near future.

That’s according to an interview published in German weekend newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag with EU digital commissioner Günther Oettinger.

 “I am certain that we have to view the market position and business model of Google more critically than in the past,” he said.

“The EU Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager will decide what steps to take, and I think they will be far-reaching.”

At the time of writing, Google had declined to comment on the latest twist in the on-going anti-trust saga, and there were no further details about exactly when Vestager’s decision is expected to be made public.

However, if she does decide to throw the book at Google, the company could face a fine equivalent that equates to 10% of its most recent annual revenue figures, which would be around the $6bn mark.  

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