Microsoft case shows Google could face long, costly antitrust fight

EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager

European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager in Brussels discusses allegations against online search giant Google Inc.

(JOHN THYS / AFP/Getty Images)

If Google Inc. did an online search of how European antitrust regulators tangled with Microsoft Corp. during the last decade, Google would see it could be facing a long, costly fight of its own.

Officials of the 28-nation European Union on Wednesday alleged that Google broke antitrust rules there by using its search-engine dominance to favor its comparison-shopping services over those of its rivals.

The EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, also opened a separate probe into whether Google abused its widely used Android mobile operating system to hinder the development of rival software and products.

Google disputed the allegations and will be allowed to mount its defense.  That process, along with possible court appeals if the company is found to be in violation of antitrust rules, could drag on for years.


If Google fails to overturn the EU’s allegations, there is speculation that the Mountain View, Calif., concern could face fines in the billions of dollars.

The EU’s prior high-profile antitrust case involved Microsoft, which ended up paying hefty fines and being forced to alter its business practices in Europe.

Officials levied a combined $2.1 billion in fines against the software giant after investigations that began in the late 1990s.

Officials at the European Commission, the EU’s antitrust regulator, alleged among other things that Microsoft abused its dominance in personal-computer operating software to limit competition.


Microsoft appealed to a European court to have one of the major fines dismissed, but the fine was upheld by the court in mid-2012.

And in March 2013, EU regulators fined Microsoft an additional $731 million for failing to live up to an agreement to allow users of Microsoft’s Windows software to easily choose a Web browser other than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Microsoft took responsibility for that violation, which it blamed on a “technical error.”

The fines were costly but not debilitating for Microsoft, which had revenue of $86.8 billion in its fiscal year ended last June 30. Google’s revenue in calendar 2014 was $66 billion.

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