Google will have to WAIT and SEE if I fine them - EU antitrust chief

Vestager says she can't soothe all concerns about search giant

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New EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager has said that she won’t be rushed into a decision on Google's alleged abuse of its dominance of the search engine market.

Vestager described the investigations into Google as “multifaceted and complex” and said she would need some time to decide on the next steps.

The case against the search behemoth has been rumbling on for years as former competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia desperately tried to reach a so-called Article 9 agreement rather than issue a fine or other punitive measures.

Under Article 9, the European Commission (EC) can accept a set of legally binding commitments from a company to resolve a complaint. Google is accused of giving preference to its own services, scraping news sites and imposing anti-competitive terms on advertisers. Google promised to cease the latter two activities early on in negotiations.

However, the issue of search and how links to rival services should be displayed proved trickier. So far the search giant has submitted three different versions of its suggested remedies.

Vestager, it seems, sees the bigger picture.

“The sheer amount of data controlled by Google gives rise to a series of societal challenges,” she said. “Privacy is one of the most pressing concerns. Media pluralism is another.”

“Not all of these challenges are primarily economic in nature and not all of them are competition related,” she added.

Vestager also said that it was not under her remit to tackle all of these, saying she would have to limit herself to competition problems.

“To decide how to take our investigations forward, I need to know what those most directly affected by the practices in question have to say. I need to have a representative sample of views of those concerned. I have to be sure that we have all the facts up to date to get it right,” she concluded. ®

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