EC warns Google over market dominance

The European competition chief Joaquin Almunia has hit out at Google alleging that it prioritises its own services in organic search returns as the US company faces a potential antitrust investigation over competition concerns.

Google Doodle

Joaquin Almunia, the European Commission (EC) competition chief, made the comments in a Financial Times interview where he said he believes Google is “diverting traffic” to its own services, such as news, maps and shopping comparison, and potentially distorting consumer choice in the search market.

He says: “We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google] are diverting traffic… I think – I fear – there is an abuse of this dominant position.” His comments will be welcomed by rival search providers, such as Microsoft and Yahoo.

Google is preparing to submit proposals addressing the EC’s competition concerns by the end of this month however Almunia warned that he would be “obliged” to submit formal charges should prove unsatisfactory.

The EC began formally investigating Google’s dominance in the search market in May 2010 with the US company facing potential fines or intervention on how it displays its search returns as a result.

A Google statement responding to the comments says: “We continue to work cooperatively with the EC.”

Almunia’s comments indicate that Google could face sterner regulatory directives in Europe compared to the US where it was cleared of unfairly biasing its search results earlier this month by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

However, in the same settlement Google agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility allowing them to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on its AdWords and on rival providers’ platforms.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Google is a total monster these days and now it has to report to shareholders I think things could get worse for them down the line from the way their searches are provided - more and more is paid search - the power they have to manipulate our lives is unreal. One day I think it will catch up with them.

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  • It is something that should be monitored but we all sign up to live in a capitalist world in the 'west'. That's the balance between making sure people like Google don't have an unfair monopoly over certain media channels etc, however on the flip side, we have to be careful to not punish large organisations purely on the basis of their size and scope within a sector. I'm sure we'll see far more stories like this over the next 18 months.

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