Google Antitrust Investigation Widened by European Commission

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-12-20
 
 
 

The European Commission has tacked on two German cases to its antitrust investigation into whether or not Google is unfairly promoting its own Web services in its search results on Google.com.

The New York Times said the Commission has taken up complaints from a conglomerate of 450 newspaper and magazine publishers, known as the B.D.Z.V. and V.D.Z., and Euro-Cities, an online mapping specialist.

Presumably, this will add more evidential wood to the commission's broader case, which crystallized late last month based on complaints from vertical search engines Foundem, Microsoft's Ciao and eJustice.

These companies alleged in February that Google surfaces links for Google Product Search and other Web services over links to their own comparison shopping engines on Google.com.

The European Commission said Nov. 30:

"The Commission will investigate whether Google has abused a dominant market position in online search by allegedly lowering the ranking of unpaid search results of competing services which are specialized in providing users with specific online content such as price comparisons and by according preferential placement to the results of its own vertical search services in order to shut out competing services."

Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd told the Times the Commission was looking into aspects of the B.D.Z.V. and V.D.Z. and Euro-Cities complaints that are similar those of Foundem, Ciao and eJustice.

However, there are some variations.

The publishers claimed Google favored its own search results and piggybacked on their content by pairing ads with articles to make money. Euro-Cities said Google Maps was being used in other Websites for free, impinging its own ability to compete for business.

Google professed no concern over the expanded investigation because it's par for the course. A Google spokesperson told eWEEK the European Commission automatically takes over cases from European Union member states when there are overlapping issues.

"We continue to work cooperatively with the Commission and national regulators, explaining many aspects of our business. There's always going to be room for improvement, so we are working to address any concerns," the spokesperson said.

The European Commission isn't the only antitrust opposition Google is facing. In the United States, Microsoft Dec. 13 joined FairSearch.org, a group created to oppose Google's $700 million bid for ITA Software.

Google also found itself recently defending its business practices from accusations that it gives its own local search service preferential treatment over Yelp, TripAdvisor and others.

 


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