EU Commissioner Vestager moves to counter possible "anticompetitive constraints" (Photo: EU)
The European Commission sent a so-called "Statement of Objections" to Google, alleging that the technology company has abused its dominant market position in internet searches. The executive arm of the 28-nation bloc has also formally opened an antitrust investigation to look into whether Google has abused the dominant position of its Android mobile operating system.
The announcements underscore growing fears in Europe that competition is harmed by companies that become de facto monopolies in key competitive areas. That concern has been especially big in the digital space. In 2014, Microsoft was fined 561 million euros in another case. And some European lawmakers have been calling for the breakup of companies like Google.
"In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a press release.
The EU started to look at Google's approach to comparison shopping in November 2010. Its preliminary conclusion is that the company's dominant search engine gives systematic favorable treatment to products sold through its own "Google Shopping" product.
Vestager said the separate antitrust investigation concerns mobile operating systems, apps and services. "Smartphones, tablets and similar devices play an increasing role in many people's daily lives and I want to make sure the markets in this area can flourish without anticompetitive constraints imposed by any company," she said.
The Commission is worried that Google, in an effort to shield its own applications and services from competition, has hindered other companies in developing and launching rival mobile operating systems, applications and services. Google potentially has that power because of the dominance of the Android mobile operating system.
Automakers are also struggling with Google's dominant position in the smartphone market. Their main concern is that Google wants access to connected-car data. Hence not all carmakers have yet joined Google's Open Automotive Alliance, whose goal is to promote the role of Android devices in the car.