SMACK! EU set to hit Google with 'abuse of dominance' rap

Oetti fans flames as EU anti-trust chief heads to the US

EU digi-chief Gunther H-dot Oettinger poured fuel on rumours that the European Commission will haul Google over the coals with antitrust charges this week - and now it's happened.

Backing up comments he made to a German weekly newspaper on Sunday, H-dot Oetti said: “We have to look more critically at the market position and business model of Google. We have to make ... search engines follow our rules in Europe,” adding that he expected Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s decision to arrive "very soon."

Sources close to the investigation into Google's alleged "abuse of dominance" on the web today told El Reg they expect the possibility of antitrust charges to be discussed by commissioners from all member states on Wednesday (tomorrow).

Commission spokesmen declined to comment on the case, and added that Vestager leaves for a trip to Washington DC tomorrow.

A discussion with the whole College of Commissioners does suggest that there has been some development in the five-year case. Google is accused of abusing its dominant position in the European search market, unfairly directing users to its own services and away from rivals, imposing restrictive contracts on advertisers, and stealing reviews and other content from other sites.

Despite efforts under the old commissioner to reach an agreement with the Chocolate Factory that would keep everybody happy, Vestager is widely expected to take a firmer stance and impose some sort of punitive measure – possibly even up to the maximum fine of 10 per cent of global annual turnover ($6.6bn out of $66bn), as well as ordering to Google to change its business practices.

However, such measures are not entered into lightly and will come only after a formal “Statement of Objections.”

Even a Statement of Objections takes time to draw up, meaning the most concrete thing we can expect for now is a statement about a statement. All clear?

Google-watchers are following every twist and turn in this case for clues as to how it will play out for the rest of Europe’s digital market. The Commission, as always, will move at the speed of a glacier its own pace.

The formal announcement will be made at 1100 British Summer Time (1000 GMT) today. ®

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