European Union Readies Anti-Trust Lawsuit Against Google

In a report released by the Wall Street Journal in April 2015, the European Union, through the European Commission in charge of unfair competition, is preparing to serve Google, Inc. with a lawsuit for violating European anti-trust regulations. Now led by Margrethe Vestager, the investigation has been ongoing since 2010 and was subject to a number of political controversies and delays. Last year, the European Parliament put forth a nonbinding resolution in which Google would separate its search service from its other businesses. US Congress wrote a letter in response decrying this action. Vestager, recently instated to Commissioner for Competition in November 2014, has stated that she does not seek a settlement from the technology giant and is hoping rather to take the case to court in order to set a lasting legal precedent within the European Union. The European Commission cites four main claims against Google.

First, Google’s search engine accounts for 90% of all searches in the EU. The Commission believes the company has been unfairly promoting its own services in search results at the expense of local businesses. Vestager has issued a formal request for complainants to publically publish unredacted documents from businesses who have been adversely affected by Google’s alleged practices. Second, the EU believes that the company is engaging in “scraping,” or copying original material from competing websites. Third, Google may be excluding competing search advertising providers. Lastly, the Commission charges Google with implementing contractual restrictions on developers who provide seamless transfer of ad campaigns on other platforms. The initial complaint is traced back to November 2010 when three search service providers (Foundem, eJustice, and Ciao! from Bing) claimed that Google unfairly filtered their websites from search results or lowered their search rankings. The European Commission opened an investigation and in 2012 the previous chief of competition, Joaquin Almunia, offered the company a chance to institute remedies to avoid a formal complaint, which Google subsequently declined. If Google is found liable for practices in violation of anti-trust/anti-competition regulation, the company will have to pay up to 10% off its annual revenue in penalties.

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