LONDON (Reuters) - European antitrust regulators have sent copies of their charges against Google to critics of the U.S. tech giant and given them a month to comment, one of the complainants said on Thursday.
The move by the European Union competition watchdog may boost its case against the search engine, which it accuses of abusing its market power and cheating consumers and rivals by distorting search results to favor its shopping service.
Nineteen companies, including Microsoft, U.S. online travel site TripAdvisor, British online mapping service Streetmap, French comparison site Twenga and lobbying group ICOMP, are expected to get the EU charge sheet.
“We received the redacted statement of objections today. We are invited to comment within a four week period. It comes with strict confidentiality, so we cannot disclose anything about it other than to our legal counsel,” one of the complainants said.
The European Commission declined to comment.
Google was not immediately available to comment
Complainants who triggered the Commission’s investigation into Google nearly five years ago can also attend a closed-door hearing to argue their case, should Google ask for one.
The EU competition authority unveiled its charges against the Internet search engine two months ago, putting the U.S. company at risk of a fine of up to 10 percent of its global turnover, or as much as $6.6 billion, if found guilty.
Google has been given until July 7 to respond to the accusations but can ask for an extension.
European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has opened a series of high-profile cases since taking office in November, notably against Russian gas giant Gazprom U.S. tech companies Amazon and Apple as well as coffee chain Starbucks.
Editing by David Clarke