Google could be slapped with a record 3 billion euro fine (about $3.4 billion) from the European Commission in an antitrust case that has dragged on since 2010.
The company is accused of promoting its shopping service over rival services in internet searches on its website .
Google faced a similar case in the United States, when the Federal Trade Commission began looking into the company’s search-engine practices in 2011. The company reached a settlement with the FTC in 2013 that allowed competitors access to patents on critical standardized technologies needed for a variety of devices such as phones and laptops, but the FTC didn’t find that Google gamed the search-engine system.
Watchdog.org reported Monday that the Obama administration has extended an open door to Google, with company officials visiting the White House at least 427 times since Obama took office in January 2009. The data comes from Google Transparency Project, the work of Campaign for Accountability.
As part of its regular visits to the White House, Google held several meetings that could have been related to the FTC case.
For example, on April 17, 2012, Google’s top lobbyist Johanna Shelton, product management director Hunter Walk and Raben Group lobbyist Courtney Snowden met with White House domestic policy counsel Steve Robinson. Google retained Raben Group in July 2011 to assist with the FTC case.
On Oct. 31 and Nov. 13, 2012, Shelton and Google competition counsel Matthew Bye met with Office of Science and Technology Policy senior internet adviser David Edelman. Prior to joining Google, Bye advised on antitrust matters at the FTC general counsel’s office.
Google evidently has less pull with the European Union watchdog. Reuters reports that Google has tried and failed several times to reach a compromise with the European Commission in the past six years and now has no plans to try again to settle.
The commission can fine companies up to 10 percent of their annual sales, equating to Google having to cough up as much as 6.6 billion euros, but the Sunday Telegraph reported the fine would likely be half that and be imposed in June.
Still, that would be nearly three times the amount of the previous largest antitrust fine, the 1.1 billion euros slapped on chip-maker Intel by the commission in 2009.
Google’s Android operating system has also drawn regulatory scrutiny by the commission for the way its own apps come pre-installed on devices.
Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, said the possible fine smacks of a European money grab.
“This is just, frankly, tax revenue,” he said. “It’s a way of taking money out of an American company’s pockets and putting it into the pockets of the great bureaucratic behemoth in Brussels. And by the way, the formula that the Commission uses to calculate revenues is inherently protectionist, because it’s not based on European revenues, it’s based on a total. The fine can be up to 10 percent of global revenue. And they always look at global revenue basically to say ‘the bigger you are around the planet, the more money we’re going to take out of your pocket.’”
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