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August 14, 2015

Google given two weeks to defend itself against €6bn EU probe

Deadline for search engine extended as it prepares to challenge antitrust allegations.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Google has been given two more weeks to prepare a defence against an impending EU Commission probe about potential abuse of market position.

The search engine, which accounts for nine out of every ten searches in Europe, is accused of rigging its search results to favour its price comparison service Google Shopping over alternatives, and could face a fine of €6bn.

Following requests from Google the EU Commission opted to grant it an extra two weeks, moving a July 17 deadline back to the last day of August, after a previous session waived the original July 7 time limit.

"In line with normal practice, the Commission analysed the reasons for the request," said Ricardo Cardoso, spokesman for the commission.

"As a result, it has granted an extension allowing Google to fully exercise its rights of defence."

The charge sheet against Google was issued in April this year shortly after Margrethe Vestager took up the role of competition commissioner, the latest twist in a stand-off between the search engine and the EU.

In a "preliminary view" the commission is contending that Google’s alleged favouring of its own shopping service harms consumers and stifles competition.

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The probe will also examine similar anti-competition charges against the company’s Android, the most widely used smartphone operating system in the world, with a global market share of more than half.

It comes as Google has been resisting EU demands to enforce the so-called "right to be forgotten" on its American domain, the commission arguing that Europeans can easily access the .com address and so bypass results delisted under a novel interpretation of data privacy rights.

Should Vestager find against the firm she will have the power to levy fines of 10% of Google’s revenue, the firm having reported sales of $66bn (€59bn) during the last fiscal year.

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