What began as a preliminary investigation in Europe has just turned into a big headache for Google. The European Union has begun an official investigation into the search giant for alleged violations of Europe's antitrust laws. The investigation was spurred by complaints from competing search companies. Specifically, Google is accused of intentionally down ranking their results in both paid ads, and regular searches.
Europe is taking these allegations seriously because Google owns over 80% of the search market there. While some of the complainants are small vertical search companies, they believe Google is intentionally suppressing their results. For example, Google is accused of giving preferential placement of its own services in search results, and keeping competitors' results lower. They also claim that Google restricts where ads for these competitors can be placed.
If Google is found to have violated the law, the fines could be hefty. The penalty could be up to 10% of Google's global sales, which last year was $24 billion. A $2.4 billion fine would sting, even for Google.