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With EU challenging Google, this time 'stakes are high'

Sharon Gaudin | April 17, 2015
EU's antitrust charges against Google search could be costly and distracting.

That 2014 agreement came about a year after Google settled a lengthy antitrust investigation launched by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

This time, Google was quick to respond to the EU's charges, saying that search users have more choice than ever.

"While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways -- and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark," the company wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

The company goes on to note that it has strong competition from the likes of Zalando, a German shopping site, as well as Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon and DuckDuckGo.

Olds said the EU has spent more than five years investigating Google to determine whether it had a strong case against the company.

"The financial penalties resulting from an EU ruling could be massive, even for a company the size of Google," Olds said. "Some have said potential fines could top $6 billion. To put that in perspective, as a company, Google's profits for 2014 were around $14.44 billion. If the Europeans went whole hog on penalties, it could take a huge chunk out of Google's profits."

This antitrust issue could give Google's competitors a ray of hope in an area where it's been tough to get a foot-hold against the search giant.

Will it be enough to take a bite out of Google's market share?

"Competitors will take interest but it might not make a whole lot of difference," said Olds. "Most users today just automatically use Google search and aren't even thinking of Bing or Yahoo. It's hard to imagine any fallout from this antitrust suit that would cripple Google search enough to change that consumer behavior."

 

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