Google facing EU antitrust charges at end of March

Whether or not Google is formally accused of antitrust behaviors by the European Commission will be decided at the end of March, it's been confirmed, suggesting the EU has accelerated its investigation into the search giant's behaviors online. "I will receive comments from the case team towards the end of the first quarter" EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters this week. "I do not expect anything sooner. Let us see"

Currently, Google is under informal investigation, with an EU team looking at whether the search engine has misused its industry heft to unfairly promote its own services at the expense of rivals. Previous suggestions were that any formal complaints were still expected to take some time to arrive, with the initial stages only begun in November 2010.

A total of ten complaints have been levied against Google to the European Commission, with those vocally protesting against the company ranging from small companies with a footprint in just one country, to behemoth – and former antitrust complaint victim – Microsoft. If the EU finds Google has indeed been indulging in anti-competitive behaviors, it could fine the firm as much as 10-percent of its global turnover.

Meanwhile, Google also faces increasing scrutiny from US lawmakers, with the FTC apparently extending its existing investigation plans into search to include Google+, the company's fledgling social network. A group of antitrust senators have demanded the FTC look into Google's behaviors, having called chairman Eric Schmidt in for questioning on two separate occasions.