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EU brings forward Google antitrust investigation

European regulators will bring forward their antitrust investigation into Google to the end of March.

The EU commission has been investigating Google for misuse of its market position and will decide whether to file a formal complaint against the internet search company.

"I will receive comments from the case team towards the end of the first quarter. I do not expect anything sooner. Let us see," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said this week.

Until this point officials had been playing down expectations of an early conclusion to the informal investigation stage, and antitrust investigations typically take several years.

The Commission opened an investigation into Google in November 2010 after rivals including Microsoft accused the internet search company of abusing its dominant position in the market for web search services.

In all there are 10 complainants, including British price comparison site Foundem, German association of business listings VfT, French online daily deals company Deal du Jour, French search engine 1plusV, who have formally complained to the Commission and last month, the Spanish Association of Daily Newspaper Publishers (AEDE) became the latest.

U.S. regulators are also investigating Google's business practices.

The probe has expanded to include the company's new social networking tool Google+, according to a Reuters source.

The Commission, which can fine companies up to 10 per cent of their global turnover, has penalised companies such as Microsoft and Intel billions of euros for breaching EU antitrust rules.

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