The Financial Times is reporting today that Dealreporter.com (a subscription service) has details of a 400 page document spelling out accusations from complainants to the EU related to abuse of the search engine’s commercial dominance in Europe.
The total list of complainants is now growing in length and includes, Foundem, eJustice, Ciao!, 1plusV, VfT, Microsoft, Elfvoetbal, Hotmaps, Interactive Labs, nnpt.it, dealdujour.pro, and Twenga. There are at least two more German complaints which were referred by the Bundeskartellamt (Federal Cartel Office) and others which have not yet been revealed. In fact Dealreporter.com says that there are now so many complainants that, “The internet search giant will not get away easily as there are too many complainants, most of whom will not be satisfied with mere promises”.
Eric Schmidt is reportedly making a further courtesy visit to the Commission next week which is arousing significant interest from Brussels diplomats. This will be at least Mr. Schmidt’s second visit.
Google is being accused not because it currently servers roughly 90% of search queries throughout most of Europe (excluding the Czech Republic and Russia) but because it is taking advantage of that position by favouring its own services and reducing the rankings of competitors.
Google’s defence will be that it is providing the services it’s customers are looking for — but as an EU fine could be as much as 10% of turnover, Google really will have to cooperate with the Commission to come up with a solution. Microsoft, in the same position some years ago, gave software users more access to choose web browsers. Google may in fact be forced to offer access to other search engines via its own search box.
Google defenders will say that Google is a commercial entity and can offer its own services as such — in fact Bing does the same thing. However, it is highly unlikely that this will wash with the European Commission because of the search engine’s dominance and therefore power over other businesses which will be viewed as giving it additional responsbilities beyond its own commercial needs. Expect a huge fine — it is now definitely on the cards and would be in the billions of dollars.