Google Could Face $3.8 Billion in Fines from EU Regulators
Google could face fines as high as $3.8 billion dollars imposed by European regulators, according to the Washington Post. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt recently contacted Joaquin Almunia, the European Union Competition Commissioner, to negotiate a deal that would save Google from forthcoming antitrust litigation.
While the letter may not be immediately available to the general public, a spokesperson from Google made a statement to the press indicating that the search giant is doing everything possible to avoid any litigation before it actually happens.
The statement simply says that Google is "work[ing] cooperatively with the commission" to address four separate areas marked as concerning by the European Commission. What four areas are EU regulators concerned about?
What's Europe's Problem with Google, Anyhow?
Here are the primary four concerns that the European Commission has with Google:
- Does Google artificially modify search results to favor web properties that it owns?
- Does Google purposely prevent customers from moving their AdWords campaigns by stifling the creation of account transfer tools?
- Does the fact that Google requires exclusivity from its search partners mean that the competitive nature of online ad purchasing is negatively impacted?
- Does Google steal content from other competing services and use it to its own advantage? (which, ironically, is the same thing that Google tries to discourage site owners from doing with Matt Cutts' webspam updates)
A Fine Equal to 10% of Google's Annual Revenue
European laws are generally stricter than those in the U.S., and both the power held by the governments and the fines they impose are larger in size as well. While Google has faced lawsuits and paid fines domestically (and, in fact, they're in the process of fighting a domestic lawsuit right now), they're tiny in compared to what the European Commission is expected to seek.
If Google is found guilty of violating antitrust laws, they'll be required to pay up to 10% of their annual revenue, or $3.8 billion in this case. Google is also facing antitrust suits in South Korea and India, meaning that the company may soon be bleeding out a lot of money they were expecting to keep.
Joaquin Almunia feels that extended legal battles would be unnecessary and damaging to both parties, so Google isn't the only party hoping for a quick settlement, according to the Washington Post. Almunia has stated that Google isn't disputing the European Commission's concerns, but rather working to address them. Time will tell whether their efforts pay off.