Google is no stranger to legal conflict in Europe: between accusations of monopolistic practices with Android and web search tools, to a forced implementation of the European Union's "right to be forgotten" laws, to butting heads with German privacy advocates over Street View data, it's safe to say that the company's relationship with the continent is... complicated. The latest complication comes from the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, which will reportedly hand down an unprecedented fine over Google's alleged violations of antitrust laws.
Let's back up a bit. The reported fine would be the latest (but probably not final) fallout from the antitrust investigation that started way back in 2010, in which the Commission has accused Google of abusing its dominant market position in search engines to stifle competition. Specifically, the Commission objected to Google using its own advertising platform to direct users of the search engine to other Google services, like Google Shopping for price comparisons, over competitors. Several local Google competitors, including smaller companies owned by Microsoft, made specific allegations against Google. The Commission instructed Google to provide suggestions for altering its search programs to comply with EU law in 2012, and Google's response was published in 2013, but it failed to assuage the Commission's concerns. The case continued, more local competitors to various Google services piled on.
The Commission accepted at least some of Google's revised proposal in early 2014, after which many of the complaining companies stated that the settlement didn't go far enough and that the Commission didn't consult any of Google's competitors, causing the final settlement decision to be postponed. Later in 2014 the EC's Competition Commissioner was replaced, and the larger European Union governing body became impatient with the lack of progress on the case, issuing non-binding resolutions against "search engine bundling" in general and Google in particular. All of this has occurred against the backdrop of a second antitrust investigation and eventual accusation against Google by the Commission, this time focusing on Android and Google's requirements of partnered manufacturers.
Got all that? Okay, now on to the more breaking news: The Sunday Telegraph, a British newspaper, has reported today that the European Commission intends to levy a fine against Google for the initial search antitrust case. The fine will reportedly be an even three billion euro, approximately 3.39 billion US dollars. Though the amount of the fine is unprecedented (The Commission's largest antitrust fine thus far has been against Intel for 1.1 billion euro), it's actually only about half of the maximum possible penalty in this particular case.
The Sunday Telegraph quotes "people close to the matter," and says that the ruling will be made public sometime next month. Assuming that the details are accurate, even then it probably won't be the end of the case: Google will undoubtedly appeal.