Recently, Eric Schmidt contacted the European Union Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, to propose a compromise to avoid the pending antitrust litigation. Although the letter was not made public, a Google spokesperson released a statement to the press that indicated the technology company is working diligently towards a resolution:
“We have made a proposal to address the four areas the European Commission described as potential concerns. We continue to work cooperatively with the commission.”
The European Commission is currently investigating Google to determine the following:
- Does Google alter the search results in order to unfairly favor its own Web properties over the competition?
- Does Google copy content from competing services to use it for their own benefit?
- Does the “de facto” exclusivity required from search partners negatively impact the competitive landscape of online ad purchasing?
- Does Google negatively impact portability for customers’ AdWords campaigns by preventing the development of account transfer tools?
Since European laws are stricter, government power is greater, and the fines are larger, the consequences of the European Commission’s investigation are potentially much greater than domestic legal threats. If the European Commission determines that Google has violated antitrust law, the commission is allowed to fine Google as much as 10% of annual revenue. This means Google could be facing a shocking $3.8 billion fine!
Mr. Almunia, who has not publicly commented on Schmidt’s letter, understands that an extended legal battle is detrimental for both parties and would prefer a quick settlement. The Commissioner has indicated that Google has made several proposals and has been working to address the above issues, rather than dispute them. During a recent interview, Almunia said:
“What was Google’s motto at the beginning? ‘Don’t be evil?’ I hope it continues to be important.”
In addition to the European Commission’s investigation, the search giant also faces antitrust legal battles in the U.S., India, and South Korea.