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EU Accuses Google of Abusing Its Internet Search Dominance

FILE - In this April 17, 2007 file photo, exhibitors work on laptop computers in front of an illuminated sign of the Google logo at the industrial fair Hannover Messe in Hanover, Germany.

The European Union is accusing Google of abusing its dominant position in Internet searches, alleging the American technology giant is violating the 28-nation bloc's antitrust laws.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Wednesday Google, which controls 90 percent of Internet searches in Europe, has systematically favored its own comparison-shopping product in its general search results pages, stifling competition. Vestager said such practices harm consumers by offering them fewer choices.

In a statement, the company said while Google is the most dominant search engine, Internet users have numerous ways to search for information and that "allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark."

Vestager said "if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe."

"Our investigation so far has shown that when a consumer enters a shopping-related query in Google's search engine, Google's comparison shopping product is systematically displayed prominent at the top of the search results," Vestager said. "This display is irrespective of whether it is the most relevant response to the query.''

Google has 10 weeks to officially respond to the allegations.

Analysts say the EU could fine Google as much as 10 percent of its annual sales, a penalty that could total more than $6 billion.

The European Commission has also opened a separate antitrust investigation into whether Google has entered into anti-competitive agreements or abused its position in the field of operating systems, applications, and services for smart mobile devices. Google is the company behind the widely used mobile operating system Android.

U.S. President Barack Obama has questioned EU efforts to curb the power of American technology companies.