European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager (right) will oversee the probe into Google

New EU competition chief in no rush over Google probe

Europe's new competition chief says she will take her time deciding the next steps for the EU’s four-year investigation into Google.

Margrethe Vestager took over as European Competition Commissioner on 1 November, replacing Joaquin Almunia who rejected the third settlement proposed by the search engine giant since the start of the investigation in September.

Speaking at a European Parliament hearing, she said she would take a representative sample of views from parties involved in the case and check on the latest developments in the sector before taking any action.

The investigation focuses on claims from Google’s rivals, most of them significantly smaller than the Californian firm, that the company is squeezing them out in Internet search results. Google wants to settle the EU probe and avoid a possible fine, which could be as much as 10 per cent of its global turnover of about £37bn.

"The issues at stake in our investigations have a big potential impact on many players, they are multifaceted and complex. I will therefore need some time to decide on the next steps," Vestager said.

The Danish liberal, a free-trade advocating economy minister at home prior to her current post, said the investigation would only focus on competition issues despite calls from some critics that it should expand to data privacy and media pluralism issues.

A proposed deal between the EU and Google was reached in February but was eventually scrapped by Almunia after rivals criticised the plans for not going far enough, saying the settlement would only entrench Google's dominance of Internet searches.

Later in September Almunia also revealed that the investigation could be broadened after the commission received several complaints about the possible diversion of Internet traffic towards Google’s non-search services.

The complaints from European publishers, a telecoms operator, an advertising platform and an association of picture industries and photo libraries alleged the firm was leveraging its dominance to promote its social network Google+ and its online video website YouTube, according to Almunia.

He also reiterated previous comments on a possible investigation into Google's Android mobile operating system, which is also the subject of several complaints.

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