EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager yesterday said Google's preferential use of its own shopping product in its search engine could be harmful to consumers and competitors. Vestager announced the charges on Wednesday, five years after the investigation was launched.
"What I saw when I took office was that discussions about commitments didn't seem to move forward, neither very fast nor in promising way in order to finalize the case," she told reporters in Washington.
"It was my option that we should move forward here instead of waiting," said Vestager, who took office in November. She also warned that the EU Commission on competition could also open investigations relating to other Google tools that may unfairly edge out competitors, including its travel, flights and hotel services.
"If an infringement is proven, and it's on purpose... a case focused on comparison shopping service could potentially establish a broader precedent for enforcing EU competition rules in other instances of Google favoring its own services over competing services," she said.
Google accounts for 90 per cent of the online search market in Europe.
Google accounts for 90 per cent of the online search market in Europe. The concern is that competitors like travel portal TripAdvisor or business review Yelp could be squeezed out as a result of Google's dominance, prioritizing its own product over others in its search engine.
The California Internet company could face huge fines if found culpable -- as much 10 per cent of its USD 66 billion in worldwide turnover last year -- and has 10 weeks to respond to the charges. Vestager said a second, separate investigation into Google's Android software has also been launched to determine whether the company requires smartphone manufacturers to pre-install Google apps and if it hinders them from developing their own services or apps.
She said the EU would work with various companies, including Google, to investigate the allegations. "It is still way too early to give a timeline as to where our investigations will lead us or where it will end," she said. US critics say the EU is being selective in singling out Google and other American companies, including Microsoft -- the target of an investigation a decade ago -- Apple, Facebook and Amazon.