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EU Reportedly Set to Announce Antitrust Charges Against Google

Google will be charged with diverting traffic from rivals to favor its own services, according to published reports.

Reuters / Stephen Lam

The European Union will accuse Google on Wednesday of abusing its dominant position in Internet searches in Europe, a step that could see the Internet giant fined up to $6.6 billion, the Financial Times and Dow Jones reported on Tuesday.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager will say on Wednesday that Google will soon be served with a statement of objections, or charge sheet, setting out how it is alleged to have breached competition law by diverting traffic from rivals to favor its own services, the FT said.

A European Commission spokesman declined comment on the reports.

Vestager, who is due to fly to the United States on Wednesday afternoon, will make a statement after the weekly meeting of all 28 E.U. commissioners in the morning, the FT said.

She made the decision to go ahead with charges on Tuesday together with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and will inform her colleagues on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Vestager has narrowed the case she inherited from her Spanish predecessor Joaquin Almunia, who rejected three settlement proposals from Google, the FT said.

Google did not respond to immediate requests for comment.

Another commissioner, digital economy chief Guenther Oettinger, said on Monday that Vestager would make a statement on Google in days.

Andreas Schwab, a member of the European Parliament who has pushed for the EU executive to consider even breaking up Google, told Reuters earlier this week he expected the commission to bring competition charges against Google.

The E.U. investigation is one of the most high-profile competition cases of recent years and comes amidst a wave of political opposition in Europe to the perceived dominance of U.S. tech companies.

Almunia launched the probe in 2010 and initially concluded that Google may have hurt competitors by favoring its own products and services in search results and blocking advertisers from moving their campaigns to rival platforms.

Since then, Google has offered three settlement proposals to resolve the case. Most recently, just over a year ago, it offered to give competing products and services bigger visibility on its website, let content providers decide what material it can use for its own services and make it easier for advertisers to move their campaigns to rivals.

Almunia initially accepted that deal, only to reverse his decision six months later and demand more concessions, leaving the ultimate decision to his successor.

Google rival Microsoft has been hit with total EU fines of more than 2.2 billion euros ($2.34 billion) over the past decade.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Tom Koerkemeier in Brussels and Yasmeen Abutaleb in New York; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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