Alphabet’s Google Inc. has hired at least five leading law firms in Brussels as a part of an effort to build up its legal defense against the European Union’s antitrust regulators. Specifically, Google’s legal team – which now consists of Cleary Gottlieb, Allen & Overy, Slaughter and May, Garrigues and White & Case – will challenge the EU competition watchdog’s decision in June to impose a $2.7 billion fine on the search giant for allegedly driving more traffic to its shopping service as well as another potential sanction that is likely to hit Google later this year, according to reports. The penalty accounts for nearly one-tenth of Alphabet’s $90 billion revenue in 2016.
For several years, the EU antitrust regulators have been investigating Google’s business practices, how it treats competition with respect to its Search platform. The probe relates to whether Google is in violation of competition laws in the region by unfairly favoring its own offerings within its large ecosystem at the expense of rival services and products. Last month, the EU regulators finally decided to fine the Mountain View-based giant based on findings that Google had been creating an anti-competitive ecosystem by systematically abusing its dominance over its search engine to boost traffic to its shopping comparison service while stifling competition. The decision was even supported by major tech companies in the United States, including Oracle Corporation, Yelp, Trip, and News Corporation. The EU’s case against Google will be tried before the General Court in Luxembourg, the second highest court in Europe.
In a related news, the European Union recently formed a new panel that will be tasked with advising the antitrust watchdog on its case against Google’s Android, suggesting that a decision on whether the dominant mobile operating system has been stifling competition through its open-source nature could be issued shortly. That means Google might also face a hefty fine for its other services such as the Android operating system, along with the AdSense for Search platform, if the European Commission finds that the mobile OS also violates Europe’s competition laws. Meanwhile, an update on Google's legal battle with regards to its Search platform should be expected over the coming months.