The European Union’s antitrust body, the European Commission, is preparing to file formal charges against Google in the next few weeks.

The commission has asked European companies that have complained against Google for permission to publish parts of the complaints, according to a report in the New York Times Wednesday afternoon. This is said to be an immediate precursor to the filing of formal charges.

European companies have complained that Google has used its dominance in search to unfairly drive Internet traffic to its other properties. The commission has also been investigating charges that Google has been “scraping” content from rival sites, and unfairly restricting advertisers and software developers with which it does business, the report states.

Google has vigorously denied the charges, pointing out that many of Google’s services, like Google+ and Street View (in Germany), have not been successful.

The Times report points out that there is still ample time for the commission to settle with Google. However, the current head of the European Commission, Margrethe Vestager, is said to prefer formal charges to a settlement, for legal reasons. In fact, the commission has tried several times to settle with Google over the past few years, but has been unsuccessful.

If formal charges are filed, Google would have three months to prove its innocence, or to propose a settlement.

If the commission finds Google guilty of antitrust, it could by law fine the company up to 10 percent of its annual revenue, which totaled $66 billion last year, according to the Times.

If the whole thing moves forward, the case would become the largest antitrust action in Europe since the commission won a $1.8 billion settlement against Microsoft at the end of an investigation that started a decade ago.


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