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The EU might need to probe Google over new copyright rules, Vestager says

Key Points
  • France has been the first EU country to implement an EU copyright law last month that aims to allow publishers to be compensated for their work, when displayed online.
  • However, French media firms have complained that Google is refusing to pay for displaying their content.
  • Google declined to comment on a potential new probe when contacted by CNBC on Wednesday.
An employee passes the Google logo.
Carsten Koall/Getty Images

The European Union might look into Google's compliance with new copyright rules after France raised concerns regarding the U.S. tech giant, the EU's competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in an interview with a European publication on Wednesday.

Google has faced a combined $9.5 billion in antitrust fines from the EU over the last two years. In 2017, the EU fined Google $2.7 billion for giving preference to its shopping services. Google also faced a record-breaking $5.1 billion charge in 2018 related to its Android mobile operating system. In March, the Commission also announced an additional $1.7 billion fine on Google for blocking rivals in the advertising sector. The search giant is also currently being investigated for its practices on its jobs search tool "Google for Jobs."

However, in an interview with Euroactiv, Vestager speaks about potentially probing Google over copyright for the first time.

"We're in contact with the French competition authorities, in order to see what would they do, to see if they would want to handle the question or if we should have a look," Vestager said.

Her comments come in the wake of concerns raised in France that Google is allegedly dodging copyright rules. Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron called on competition authorities to investigate Google on the basis that the company is avoiding remunerating press publishers for showing links to their articles in search results.

France has been the first EU country to implement an EU copyright law last month that aims to allow publishers to be compensated for their work, when displayed online. However, French media firms have complained that Google is refusing to pay for displaying their content.

Google declined to comment on a potential new probe when contacted by CNBC on Wednesday.

However, Euroactiv reported that Google referred the publication to a previous statement that read the company is "happy to answer any questions the French Competition Authority may have."

The European Commission was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC on Wednesday.

The EU's competition commissioner, Vestager, who has been criticized in the U.S. for her tough stance on tech giants, is due to start her second mandate at the EU's executive body next month. Vestager will continue to be in charge of competition policy, alongside with digital services.

In an interview with The New York Times, Tuesday, Vestager said that in the last five years, "some of the darker sides of digital technologies have become visible." She argued that tech companies continue to challenge competition rules, but she also said that growing public awareness over technology has allowed her to take a tough stance on this issue.

Read the full article here.

-- CNBC's Elizabeth Schulze contributed to this report.

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