googleIt looks like those ol’ EU boys are at it again.  Even with the possibility that the European Commission and Google can settle their issues, it seems that the search engine company will be facing formal antitrust charges in Europe.  We have to hand it to Google, they did what they could to avoid this situation, but it seems that avoiding this any longer is a bit unlikely at this point.

Not long ago, several months back, it seemed that there was a light at the end of the tunnel for Google, a settlement.  But just when everything seemed better, there were strong political objections, as well as some hardcore lobbying by critics and competitors of Google.  All of this overturned the near certainty that something good for Google was going to happen.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the successor to the European Commission’s antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia, Margethe Vestager, is getting ready the formal charges.  Unfortunately for Google, Almunia had favored a settlement, but it seems that’s not really much of a possibility since Vestager’s time in the spotlight.  Even though he apparently had the power to “impose” a settlement to build consensus among stakeholders with “market tests”, he wasn’t able to do it because the perceptions were that it would be too easy on Google.

The last five years has been kind to Google in this case, as problems with Google grew among Europeans politicians and regulators, as well as other external factors seemed to work against the search company, such as the NSA spying scandal.  Although not directly related to Google, it still had an impact on them when it came to the case at hand.

In the Journal’s report, Vestagaer is in the final stages of putting together a formal “statement of objections”:

“The fact that the commission has been seeking fuller

[information] from complainants, against short deadlines [of] a couple of days, shows it is in the final stages of getting a statement of objections together,” said one Brussels-based lawyer representing a Google rival in the case. “It’s part of the choreography you always see.”

Even with the charges filed, Google would still be able to try negotiating another settlement, even though it would probably have to look quite a bit different than the “rival links” proposals done in the past.  The bad part for Google is that if they try another settlement, and that one fails as well, they could face fines up to 10 percent of gross revenues.  This would mean somewhere in the billions of dollars.

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