Intel got the Microsoft treatment on Wednesday from European Union regulators who slapped the chip maker with a record $1.45 billion fine for unfairly undermining rival chip maker AMD with secret payments to computer makers to use its chips.
The decision isn’t good news for Google, which is facing increasing scrutiny from U.S. regulators who have been casting suspicious eyes on Google’s dominance in online advertising, its drive to create the world’s largest library and shared board members between the search giant and Apple. The Justice Department was hours away from filing an anti-trust suit against Google last fall over a Google-Yahoo advertising agreement that Google nixed to head off the suit.
So could Google be next for the European Commission? Though there’s currently no proceedings underway and the Europeans found no problems with Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick, Jeffrey Chester at the Center for Digital Democracy thinks they could get interested.
“As both EU and US regulators learn more about Google’s operations, including its pricing and related hold on the search market and YouTube, there will be more activity,” said Chester, a fierce Google critic. “The controversy over the Google book deal, and the criticism of Google’s potential role helping to weaken the newspaper business, is building greater interest in making the company more accountable via the policy process.”
Google — which controls over 70 percent of the search market — is hearing regulator steps over its shoulder and has been working to paint itself as just another tech company that could quickly be surpassed.
The European Commission traditionally has much less tolerance than their American counterparts for anti-competitive behavior, having fining Microsoft nearly $800 million in 2004 and another $1.4 billion in 2008 over the company’s software bundling and licensing practices.
So it would not be surprising if European regulators decide to induct Google into their billion-dollar-fine club next.