Google is under scrutiny for anti-competitive behavior by the EU, which has started an antitrust investigation targeted towards the Android mobile operating system.
Margrethe Vestager, the EU Commisioner for Competition, has Google in her sights as she suspects that the company has manipulated its search results to benefit its shopping services.
"I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules," Vestager notes.
She adds that should the investigation prove Google to be guilty, the venture will face "legal consequences."
This implies that the European Commission could fine Google for anti-competitive behavior. The body has the ability to impose penalties of up to 10 percent of the company's annual sales. Over the previous fiscal year, Google saw $74.5 billion in revenue, putting the fine at a whopping value of $7.45 billion.
EU is accustomed to chastising big players from the tech industry that have shady practices going on. Intel and Microsoft were in this position in previous years, and Intel had to shell out a fine north of $1 billion due to its business practices.
Android works as an open source platform that enables device makers to embed whatever software they prefer. However, majority of Android phones in Europe pack a default set of software and Google apps that must be licensed from Google.
At a regulatory conference in Amsterdam, Vestager has explained why the Commission is concerned. She points out that by forcing phone makers and carriers to embed Google's apps, the consumers' ability to get access to new apps is significantly hindered.
She mentions that the investigation is underway, so any conclusion would be premature.
Google now has 10 weeks to formally formulate an answer to the charges. The company may and will probably demand a hearing, with lengthy procedures following.
Vestager has a bit of experience when it comes to scrutinizing Google's practices.
Last year, the European Commission filed anti-trust charges against Google after an investigation that lasted five years. The commission concluded that the company has detrimental policies that impact both its consumers and rivals, and that placing paid search results from Google Shopping at the top of the search results page is a nefarious practice that should stop.