Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been in negotiations for several months to try to settle an antitrust investigation by the European Union Competition Commissioner, but the authority commented this week that if negotiations continue to drag on, he may be forced to resume its formal process of investigation, and may impose a large fine against the company.
Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) is under fire by EU regulators for antitrust allegations, where Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has been looking into charges that Google's search results favor its own services and lowering the visibility of competitors. Several competitors have been asking for Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) to implement a more balanced and fair rating system in its search results algorithm, where the best-rated results appear first, regardless of the site or service that provides it.
Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has made some concession in July, but Almunia said those concession have not been circulated to competitors as of yet to determine if hose would be suitable remedies. However, the commissioner said that he advised his staff to work with Google "in order to assess in-depth the solutions presented." However, if no additional progress is made in reaching a negotiated settlement, then Almunia said he would proceed to the next steps in the process, which could involve imposing a fine up to 10 percent of its annual global revenue (which was about $38 billion last year). The EU could also impose restrictions on Google's business in Europe in the future due to anti-competitive practices.
To potentially pay $4 billion in fines and see its business reduced in a vital online market would likely be a motivation for Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) to come to a reasonable settlement with the EU. Certainly investors in Google stock - like hedge-fund manager Chase Coleman of Tiger Global Management LLC - may be motivated to keep a close eye on this process as it unfolds in the coming weeks.