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Business

Fourth time a charm in EU Google antitrust row?

Despite three failed attempts against Google, EU regulators aren't giving up. Rumors have emerged the EU is gearing up for a fourth time to move against the US Internet search major for unfair competition practices.

The European Union's competition regulator is quietly taking the preliminary measures to push ahead with an antitrust case against Google in the next few months, according to media reports this week, possibly reviving a five-year-old case that has stalled several times.

Citing unnamed sources, US business daily "The Wall Street Journal" (WSJ) first reported on Wednesday the European Commission had been asking companies that filed complaints against Google for permission to publish information from confidential reports.

Antitrust experts told the WSJ that the requests were a strong indication that formal antitrust charges were being prepared in the case.

British business daily "Financial Times" (FT) said the preparation of a complaint against Google may not mean that the Commission is planning to take formal action, citing a person familiar with the case. The groundwork may be used as a bargaining chip to force the Internet search company into fresh negotiations, the person added.

Google did not comment on the matter, but has denied any anti-competitive behavior in the past.

In the past five years, Brussels had already tried three times to reach a settlement with the company, after allegations arose that Google was taking advantage of its web search monopoly to hurt competitors.

Rivals accuse Google of unfairly favoring what they deem "inferior" services, displaying these results prominently on top, while restricting the ability of other advertisers and software developers to attract users from the search engine.

Filing charges against Google would launch the EU's highest-profile antitrust suit since its campaign against Microsoft, which ended up paying almost 2.2 billion euros in fines through 2013.

el/ng (Reuters, AFP)

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