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EC To Investigate Google for Antitrust

Google’s luck dodging formal antitrust investigations has finally run out

Google’s luck dodging formal antitrust investigations has finally run out.

The European Commission said Tuesday that it will investigate charges Google has abused its dominant position in search by closing out the competition.

The charges were made months ago by rival search companies complaining about where Google listed their results in both its paid and unpaid searches. They alleged that Google gives pride of place to its own results.

One of the complaints came from Microsoft’s shopping site Ciao from Bing as well as by price comparison site foundem.co.uk and French legal search engine ejustice.fr.

The Commission said it will investigate whether Google lowers the ranking of unpaid search results of competing services specialized in providing users with specific online content such as price comparisons (so-called vertical search services) and that it lowers their “Quality Score” for sponsored links. A Quality Score is one of the factors that determine the price advertisers pay Google.

The EC said it will also investigate whether Google demands exclusivity of its advertisers, preventing them from placing certain kinds of competing ads on their web sites, as well as on the sites of computer and software vendors as well as suspected restrictions on the “portability of online advertising campaign data to competing online advertising platforms.”

The company issued a statement saying: “Since we started Google, we have worked hard to do the right thing by our users and our industry – ensuring that ads are always clearly marked, making it easy for users to take their data with them when they switch services and investing heavily in open source projects. But there’s always going to be room for improvement, and so we’ll be working with the Commission to address any concerns.”

The EC said it had no notion how long the investigation will take. At risk is 10% of Google’s annual revenue. Intel last year paid $1.38 billion (€1.06 billion), the largest single fine ever levied.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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