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Europes competition regulator is preparing to move against Google Inc.

in the next few weeks, a


person familiar with the matter said Wednesday, setting the stage for charges against the U.S.
Internet-search giant in a five-year-old investigation that has stalled three times and sparked a
political firestorm.
The European Commission, the European Unions top antitrust authority, has been asking
companies that filed complaints against Google for permission to publish some information they
previously submitted confidentially, according to several people familiar with the requests.
Shopping, local and travel companies are among those that have been contacted, one of those
people said.
Antitrust experts said the requests were a strong indication that formal antitrust charges were
being prepared.
A decision to file charges against Google would kick off the EUs highest-profile antitrust suit
since its lengthy campaign that started a decade ago against Microsoft Corp., which paid the bloc
1.7 billion ($1.8 billion) in fines through 2012.
A settlement in Googles case is always possible. Even if the EU presses ahead with charges,
Google could still strike a deal to resolve the blocs concerns that the company abuses its
dominance in the European search market.
In addition to search, the commission has been investigating whether Google has been
scraping content from rivals sites, and unfairly restricting advertisers and software developers
who do business with the search giant. A draft conclusion prepared in March 2013 by the
European Commission took the preliminary view that Google was abusing its dominant
position in all four areas.
Google has denied any anticompetitive behavior. Speaking in Berlin last week, Kent Walker, its
general counsel, pointed to a painfully long list of unsuccessful Google products, including
Google+ and Street View in Germany, as evidence that competition laws were working.
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Margrethe Vestager, the EUs new antitrust chief, has made several statements suggesting that
she prefers the legal certainty of formal charges in competition cases over negotiated settlements.
Ms. Vestager is planning to move the case forward in a relatively short time frame, said a
person familiar with the matter.
Ms. Vestagers predecessor as antitrust chief, Joaqun Almunia, tried and failed three times to
reach a settlement with Google, most recently last year. Mr. Almunia considered a settlement
better suited to the fast-moving Internet landscape.
The third failure followed fierce criticism of the proposed deal from various companies,
including German publisher Axel Springer SE and News Corp, publisher of The Wall Street
Journal. They complained Googles search systematically drove users to Googles own sites.
Google and the commission havent had recent settlement negotiations, according to a person
familiar with the matter.
The regulator is moving quickly. The first requests to complainants for unredacted documents
came in late February, and most required a response in a few days, people familiar with the
matter said. One company was contacted March 26 and had until Thursday to respond, one of the
people said. Another was asked for clearance to use documentation of meetings and phone
interviews in late 2012 telling staffers about changes Google made to its Google Shopping search
service, one of the people said.