EU antitrust regulators have appointed a panel of experts to give a second opinion on their case against Google's Android mobile operating system, two people familiar with the matter said, as they weigh another record fine against the company.
Assuming the panel agrees with the initial case team's conclusions, it could pave the way for the European Commission to issue a decision against Google by the end of the year.
The Commission in April last year charged Google with using its dominant Android mobile operating system to shut out rivals following a complaint by lobby group FairSearch.
The move by the EU competition authority, which hit the company with a 2.4 billion euro ($2.7 billion) penalty for unfairly favouring its shopping service last month, could pose a bigger risk for the world's most popular internet search engine because of Android's huge growth potential.
Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso and Google both declined to comment.
The EU competition enforcer said Google's tactics include requiring smartphone makers to pre-install Google Search and the Google Chrome browser in return for access to other Google apps, and barring the manufacturers from using rival versions of Android.
The company was also accused of paying smartphone makers and mobile network operators to only install Google Search on their devices.
Google said at the time that Android was a remarkable system based on open-source software and open innovation and was good for competition and for consumers.
The Commission had planned to establish a peer review panel, also known as a devil's advocate, in June, the people said.
Such panels are usually made up of three to four experienced officials who examine the case team's conclusions with a fresh pair of eyes to ensure that the case is robust. It was not clear if the panel has started work yet.