INTERNET GIANT Google might be closing in on the end of the European Commission (EC) antitrust investigation of its business.
Google and European competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia have been dancing a slow tango over the case for years, and it has been months since anyone has been able to report anything other than the fact that at some point the investigation will come to an end.
Google is offering no comment on reports, like this one at the Guardian, that it has responded to Almunia on deadline day. We have not heard back from the European competition commissioner's office.
The EC has been investigating Google for alleged antitrust activities since 2010, and last Summer Almunia was picking over Google's web business in public.
He said that its advertising agreements "result in de facto exclusivity requiring them to obtain all or most of their requirements of search advertisements from Google, thus shutting out competing providers of search advertising intermediation services".
And added that "Google imposes contractual restrictions on software developers which prevent them from offering tools that allow the seamless transfer of search advertising campaigns across Adwords and other platforms for search advertising". In short, he didn't come across as being particularly keen on the firm and the way it appears to do business.
By July came the suggestion of a fine of 10 percent of Google's turnover, and Almunia's talk of a swift remedy. The 31 January deadline was set at the end of last year.
Since then US regulators have been criticised, most vocally by Microsoft, for letting their own punitive opportunity slip through their fingers. "The FTC's overall resolution of this matter is weak and - frankly - unusual," said the Redmond software monopolist without a hint of irony. "The conclusion is clear: Google's services are good for users and good for competition," countered Google.
We will have to wait and see whether Google has been able to convince the European Commission of that. µ