The European Commission is about to "move against" Google, "setting the stage for charges" against it, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, and adding that the commission has been asking companies who have filed complaints against the search giant for permission to publish info they submitted as confidential. These include those in the shopping, local, and travel industries.
The investigation has been going on for five years, and has looked close to being resolved several times, but the commission is always convinced that it needs to go further. Will that happen again? it depends on its next move and Google's response. The commission could bring charges, and Google could offer a settlement proposal. It could also go to court, which could see the whole thing playing out for a much longer amount of time without Google having to succumb to certain demands.
With all of the public complaints we've seen against Google from competitors over the years, it should be quite interesting to see what has been held back under confidentiality agreements. The commission is reportedly requesting to use documentation of meetings and phone interviews related to Google Shopping, for one.
Former European Commission competition chief Joaquin Almunia left office in November as Margrethe Vestager stepped into the position. Vestager indicated in the past she would take her time with the antitrust investigation. Now, according to the Journal's sources, she's planning to move forward in a "relatively short time frame." It also says she has suggested that she prefers "legal certainty of formal charges" as opposed to settlements.
Late last year, the European Parliament was found to be considering a proposal to call for a breakup of Google, specifically to separate the company’s search business from the rest of its offerings. When the subject came up for a vote, the proposal was approved, though the Parliament doesn't have the authority to require a Google breakup on its own. The idea was to convince the commission.
The Journal has been dredging up information from Google's old antitrust investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in recent weeks. Of one of the reports, the FTC said, was creating a "misleading narrative".
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