European Commission files third suit against Google

margrethe vestager

European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, announcing formal antitrust charges against Google in Brussels in April 2015.

Credit: European Commission

The European Union's European Commission has brought charges against Google. Again.

This is the third time the EC has filed an antitrust case against the search giant. Google's AdSense advertising business is the main focus of the case, and it has the potential to fit Google hard, since advertising is a big money maker for the company. 

In IT Blogwatch, we search for justice.

The third case, huh? So what exactly is going on this time? Chris Mills gives us the background:

The European Commission...issued a “statement of objections” against Alphabet, Google’s parent company. The...contract Google signs with third-party websites that use its advertising service...forces websites to put Google’s ads front and center, and prevents them from using ads from non-Google services.
...
According to the EU, Google abuses...power to prevent websites from showing ads from other ad companies. In the EU’s opinion, that constitutes anti-competitive behavior, and Google could be facing sanctions or fines.

Sounds like pretty serious charges. But you didn't think that was the EC's only complaint, did you? Oh, no, there is more. Robert Cyran breaks it down for us:

The commission is confronting Google on other fronts. It accuses the company of forcing handset manufacturers using...Android...to install Google apps and bundle services and apps together...similar behavior landed Microsoft in trouble.
...
Then there’s the charge that Google favors its own comparison shopping services...There’s little evidence consumers were harmed...Yet regulators have pursued this charge since 2010. 

So how could this affect Google? Natalia Drozdiak and Sam Schechner tell us what this could mean for the search giant:

Each of the charges aims at a relatively narrow slice of the internet behemoth’s $75 billion-a-year advertising business. But taken together, they are building into a broader threat to the...firm.
...
Each case could lead to fines of up to 10% of Google’s revenue and orders to change its behavior...perhaps just as damaging, each could be fought...over years, blunting Google’s ability to offer -- or profit from -- new products across the EU, one of its largest markets after the U.S.

What could Google do about the charges? Joe Wilcox has an interesting suggestion:

Imagine this: Google shuts down operations across the entire Euro zone—in a Brexit-like departure, but...with no preparations...the chaos...would lead to an outcry to restore services.
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I don't doubt that an hour outage would...lead to a backlash against the Competition Commission's case...Shut down Google and account end-user access stops...No more Gmail, Maps, or YouTube. Lost? Bye-bye location services, and Google search.
...
Think Pokemon Go, which...suddenly wouldn't...function...because of dependence on services like Google Maps...The Pokemon Go obsessed are insane...their wail of frustration could cause earthquakes, switch the magnetic poles, or even stop global warming...Case closed, because Pokemon Go went away. 
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