Google has been formally charged by the European Commission for violating antitrust laws, a charge that Google is reportedly ready to fight.
Google, however, could very well be found guilty of the charges being filed against it. What could this mean for the company and its European operations?
The first and most obvious thing that will likely happen if Google is determined to be violating antitrust laws is that it will be fined. Just how much, however, is the question. Some reports suggest that Google could be charged as much as $6 billion, the most money that a company has ever been fined for violating European antitrust laws. In 2009, Microsoft was ordered to pay over $2 billion, which is currently the most that the European Commission has charged a company.
While it's unlikely that Google will end up having to pay the $6 billion, it is very possible that it could be order to pay more than $2 billion.
Perhaps a more interesting possibility is that the European Commission could order for Google's services to be broken up into different companies in Europe, essentially preventing the company from needing to abuse its position in search to promote its services.
This would be a disastrous blow for Google, which has spent years building up these services to integrate with other services that it offers. Of course, it is highly unlikely that Google will in fact be ordered to break up its services, but the possibility is certainly there.
What is very likely is that Google will be asked by the Commission to drastically change its search algorithm to enable competing companies to have more of a chance to promote their products and services. It will also likely be asked to scrap deals made with advertisers that exclude other advertisers from being able to use Google's advertising network.
Google has had a rough history in Europe. Google stopped offering Google News in Spain after Spanish officials ordered the company to pay news publications fees for using snippets of their stories in its news results.
Last year, the company came very close to striking a deal with regulators, however, that deal began tanking in the wake of political pressure and opposition from companies the deal was made to protect. These previous deals were built on Google having to change its search algorithm, and it is highly likely that that will be the case in the new antitrust case.
Only time will tell how the case actually affects Google, but the company now has three months to respond to the charges against it.