If you're like most people, when you Google something, you don't really think too much about how the top results got there, as long as you get what you're looking for. The tech giant's competitors charge that Google is using that to its own advantage, steering traffic to its own products and services. They complain that since Google's search is so wildly popular, they're being cheated, and they've convinced European regulators that this is a problem.
On Wednesday, the European Union issued Google a Statement of Objection, basically a charge sheet, accusing the company of steering customers to its own shopping services through its dominance of search traffic. If Google fails to rebut any of the charges, it could be fined as much as $6.6 billion dollars (though most analysts doubt any settlement would be that large) or be forced to change the way it does business—a potentially more costly change. The EU is also launching an inquiry into Android, Google's operating system that powers most smartphones around the world.
“Dominance as such is not a problem,” the EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said at a news conference. But she said the company can't use its power in search traffic to crowd out competitors in other realms, creating an uneven playing field before the teams have even left the locker room. A representative of other search engines says they want Google to apply the same search algorithm to others' products that it does to its own. Google dismissed the accusations, saying it's offering free services and that consumers can use any site they want, and it says its competitors are thriving.