Battle of the Century: Europe vs. Google

In this corner, wearing multi-colored trunks adorned with its member nations’ flags, the challenger, the European Union. And in this corner, wearing trunks stitched together from €500 notes, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the internet, Google. This winner-takes-all bout can be decided only by judges’ decision, as neither combatant can be knocked out by any means known to man. The antitrust investigation of the century starts… NOW!

Let’s Get Ready to Adjudicaaaaaaaaaate!

Over the next few weeks, the European Commission’s competition regulator will prepare groundwork for an antitrust case against Google, Inc. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google has thus far been “unavailable” for comment.

According to those hacks at The Wall Street Journal, the EC has asked for permission from companies filing complaints against Google to publicly publish some of their confidentially-submitted information. This, antitrust experts say, is a strong indication that formal antitrust charges are in the offing.

"The Challenge of Google to Tax & Antitrust", translated, ironically, via Google Translate.

“The Challenge of Google to Tax & Antitrust” Translation, ironically, courtesy of Google Translate.

In November 2014, European Union lawmakers almost unanimously backed a motion that would have antitrust regulators break up Google’s nigh-monopoly in the continent. The US Mission essentially suggested, “Hey, maybe don’t do that,” effectively kyboshing the move. The exchange was the latest of dozens of interruptions that have dragged the Europe vs. Google battle out for over half a decade.

“Everyone is very aware that this case has to come to some sort of conclusion,” Bruegel researcher and former antitrust official Mario Mariniello said. “The pressure is rising. They will have to come to some sort of decision soon.”

A-Google appointed advisory panel–which is absolutely not comprised solely of Google cronies, why would you even think that?–made suggestions to the search engine giant on implementing the EU’s newly-instated “right to be forgotten” laws.

While European privacy regulators want the online info people want “forgotten” removed from the entire internet (a gross oversimplification, to be sure, but I’m too lazy this morning to spell the whole thing out), Google’s crack team proposed that said information be removed only from websites based in Europe. Because, y’know, it’s impossible to access websites from other countries.

Other U.S. Tech Co.s Under Fire As Well

Google’s not the only online/technology giant from #Merica facing adversity across the pond as of late. Facebook is taking a beating over its privacy policies, while Apple is facing potential antitrust charges of its own regarding its new music streaming service, as well as harsh scrutiny of its ludicrous corporate tax arrangement in Ireland.

“It’s no wonder Europe is going after these companies,” said Luca Schiavoni, regulatory analyst for London-based Ovum. “They are the biggest fish in the pond and have become very powerful. That inevitably means regulators are going to get involved.”

Photo credit: Michele Ficara Manganelli / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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