The year is almost over and the new year is approaching rapidly. That new year, 2012, might not start off as well for Google as hoped. Google can expect a more than 400 pages counting document from the European Commission (EC) with objections and allegations of abuse of dominance.
Based on a complaint which goes a few years back from search engines Foundem, eJustice and Ciao!, the EU started investigating Google about a month ago. Their complaints now apparently have lead to a document of accusations against Google.
Google knows the accusations are serious because Eric Schmidt has been sent out to travel to Europe to pay a “courtesy visit” to the European Commissioner Almunia this week.
The allegations come at a unpleasant time for Google who is trying to get the deal with Motorola to be confirmed by the FTC and the EU. Chances are Schmidt was coming to Europe to smoothen that process but in the meanwhile will be smooth talking the allegations.
Analysts are expecting Google to try and settle the case. A possible fine could go up to 10% of its annual turnover which in Google’s case is a lot of money, but also the Motorola agreement is something which Google wants to push through as soon as possible.
Google will also be afraid that it will have to go through the same as Microsoft had to go through several years ago with the browser allegations. The search giant has indicated before it realizes how important the EU can be. They even suggested they could make changes. In an interview with the Telegraph back in February Schmidt said that he would be open for any suggestions or remedies the European Commission would bring up. This could include changing their algorithm.
The original case
The 400 pages document is not something which has ‘just’ sprung up. Three sites, Foundem, Ciao and Ejustice, claimed several years ago they were possibly being penalized by Google and went to the Commission.
Foundem claimed that Google was unfairly manipulating results. Google however said they never changed results manually. Google said it couldn’t turn back Foundem’s results because of the algorithm. On a panel at SMX West however Google admitted it might be able to whitelist sites and thus have a manual influence on the rankings. If the commission takes this into account Google might really have some issues.
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