February 24, 2015 / 3:38 PM / in 3 years

Google's Schmidt to meet EU antitrust chief next week: sources

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, speaks during the session "The Future of the Digital Economy" in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt will meet Europe’s antitrust chief next week, two sources with knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday, a move likely to help regulators decide the next step in a four year-old investigation into the Internet company.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has met more than a dozen Google complainants, including executives from Microsoft and German publisher Axel Springer, in the last few weeks to get feedback.

Schmidt will meet Vestager in Brussels early next week, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter isn’t public.

Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso declined to comment. Google spokesman Al Verney did not immediately respond to an email for comment.

Vestager’s predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, sought to settle the case after Google offered concessions but he eventually rejected them following opposition within the European Commission and criticism by some politicians in Germany.

Complainants, which include U.S. online travel sites Expedia and TripAdvisor, publishers in Germany and Spain as well as price comparison sites in Poland and Britain, have accused Google of abusing its dominance in Europe.

The company could be penalized up to 10 percent of its global revenues if found guilty of breaching EU rules. Based on its 2014 sales, that could be as much as $6.6 billion.

In addition to its antitrust problems, Google also faces privacy challenges in Europe, among them complying with a court order to remove web links considered offensive by users and handling users’ personal information.

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