The head of European antitrust efforts said Tuesday that Google could face more scrutiny over its other services following several complaints. Joaquin Almunia, European Union commissioner for competition, said the EU's investigation of Google could end up bigger than that of Microsoft, which for 10 years has done battle with the EU watchdog and has faced more than 2.2 billion euros ($2.8 billion) in fines.
"We have received complaints on the possible diversion of Internet traffic toward Google services which are not search services, so this is a possible third investigation concerning Google," Almunia told a European Parliament hearing.
Google is already the target of an EU antitrust investigation into its Internet search engine. Google spokesman Al Verney said in response, "We continue to work with the European Commission to resolve their concerns."
Almunia provided no further details on any investigation into Google. It was not clear if he would open a case or leave it to his successor Margrethe Vestager. Almunia is set to leave his post by the end of October.
Too Much Muscle
Two weeks ago, Almunia said he probably would not be able to conclude the 4-year-old Google probe before leaving office. The complaints against Google allege that it squeezed out rivals in Internet search results.
In June, Almunia said that numerous companies had complained about Google muscling out competitors to promote its social network Google+ and its video Web site YouTube. Those companies included European publishers, a telecom operator, an association of picture industries and photo libraries, and an advertising platform.
When we reached San Jose, California-based tech analyst Rob Enderle, he said significant action by a major governmental entity is probably the only regulatory matter that might make Google nervous.
"There are really only two things that put Google at risk given their size: an industry switch that eliminates their ad revenue, which is very unlikely in the near term, or a large government action," Enderle said. "So far the fines against Google have been insignificant, but as Microsoft found out, the EU can fine in the billions, and often -- which can even cause Google pain."
Almunia on Tuesday reiterated earlier comments about a possible investigation into Google's Android mobile operating system. Android, the most popular mobile OS in the world, has also been the subject of complaints.
"Some of the 20 formal complainants have given us fresh evidence and solid arguments against several aspects of the latest proposals put forward by Google," Almunia said. "I have communicated this to the company asking them to improve its proposals. We now need to see if Google can address these issues and allay our concerns."
Enderle said the biggest danger now for Google is believing, as Microsoft apparently did, that they are invulnerable in the EU.
"This represents a large risk for the company, largely because I don't think they see it as such and aren't taking it as seriously as they should," he said.