The European Commission has been researching the idea of legal ramifications for Google Inc's search engine favoritism for own products. A lack of neutral and independent sources may cost the company up to 6 billion Euros if found guilty of antitrust violations.
European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager is expected to hand down a decision on the probing of Google Inc soon, according to a press release.
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The European Commission has been conducting a long-term examination against the company after claims of favoritism of owned services in search results. Google denies any wrongdoing.
Günther Oettinger told German paper Die Welt am Sonntag, "Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in charge of competition will decide which steps she wants to take." Oettinger is the European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society. He further believes the steps "will be far-reaching."
Speaking to the newspaper, the commissioner asserts that the California-based company has earned "well-founded complaints by European businesses."
As Google internationally expands, Europe and the EU remain a sticky point. Recently, the company was forced to implement the ability to erase all identifying information if a person requests based on European law.
"I am certain, that we have to look more critically at the market position and business model of Google," said Oettinger.
Of course, the Financial Times notes that Oettinger holds as a vested interest in the outcome as Germany has levied against the Silicon Valley in the past, including the instillation of GEMA, and Oettinger wants to expand to the entire EU.
Doing such an action would strip the internet of many elements of communication and promotion for most businesses, however. Google is simply the lightning rod for a larger debate on financial control of property.
But will Brussels take legal action?
If Google is found guilty, the company could face a fine of over six billion Euros—a substantial windfall to a recovering economy. Additionally, the business would be forced to restructure and change several business practices, which would delay the giant’s ability to integrate more fully with the continent.
Perhaps with the languishing time, an EU-based company could take over some of Google’s position and gain a stronger foothold. Search engines like Qwant (France), IXQuick (US/Netherlands), and fledgling Duck Duck Go (US) emphasize privacy, marks against Google’s bid for open identity and personal results in searching.
Germany’s Unbubble claims an “ingenious concept of search neutrality you're empowered to make your own decisions” that is neutral and independent. The very things that Oettinger feels Google does not provide because the company’s U.S.-based business practice doesn’t necessarily follow European infrastructure. Unbubble is also subject to German law.
A recent public opinion study conducted by the European Commission in Oettinger’s native Germany demonstrated difficulty in finding telecommunication and internet prices that were worth the value. As a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the commissioner may be pushing for a larger stake in a bid for more economical growth in the telecomm industry in Germany.
Recently, he also unveiled plans to possibly remove geoblocking for EU content outside of a home country or territory. According to the Euranet Plus News Agency, EU citizens, including Vestager, find watching content online to be problematic when moving throughout the larger government body.
Political agreement between France and Germany on the ability to rightly compensate the artists and creators of the content still offers barriers.
“Geoblocking is one of the main obstacles for start-ups to stay in Europe,” said Andrus Ansip, the vice president of the European Commission in charge of the digital single market.
Last month, Oettinger spoke with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about the opposition to unblocking national boundaries on the internet. “We should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
So does geoblocking and the opportunity to create a national internet culture also play into Oettinger’s resistance to Google? After all, Unbubble offers a home perspective on the internet that is not personalized to an individual user of software. The idea of unlocking geo-regions within the larger government body would eliminate the need for proxies, yet force a regrouping of legal mandates as well.
If Vestager chooses to charge the large company with anti-trust violations, a feat her predecessor failed three times, before her American trip, there could be repercussions for both bodies. However, the Times notes that she is far more focused on concrete case laws on broader issues, such as tying data into corporate assets, instead of more specific agendas.
So while soon may imply weeks, the outcome may not appear for months.
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Sources: Die Welt am Soontag, Euranet Plus News Agency, European Commission, Financial Times