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EU Tells Google To Remedy Antitrust Violations

EU Tells Google To Remedy Antitrust Violations

Do you use Google when you search for something — a new hot water heater, directions to Aunt Margery’s, car prices, a hotel, information about why your child refuses to wear shirts with buttons? Does it even occur to you that there are other search engines out there (hello, Bing, Alibaba)?

Google says the results it offers via its search engine are neutral but regulators in Europe — where Google accounted for 79.3 percent of searches in March — beg to differ. On Monday, the European Commission accused Google of “abusing” its dominant position in the search engine market to tilt the balance towards its own advertising services and away from those of competitors. The EC has issued an “ultimatum” to Google to devise solutions in four areas or face a long and costly antitrust suit.

A statement details the four ways in which Joaquín Almunia, the EC antitrust chief,  charges that Google is violating competition laws:

  • Google favors its own products (such as Google maps or images) in search results.
  • Google copies content (such as user reviews) from competing “vertical search services” and uses it in its offerings.
  • The agreements between Google and websites on which it delivers search advertisements hurt competitors.
  • The restrictions that Google places on the “portability” of online search advertising from AdSense, its own platform, to the platforms of others, are also to competitors’ disadvantage.

The suggestion that Google has somehow engineered search results to its own advantage would indeed undermine the seeming “randomness” of results from Google’ search.

In the US, Google accounted for 66.4 percent of searches in March, says the New York Times. Globally, Google accounts for 78.64 percent of the desktop search market, down from 83.19 percent last year, according to figures cited in Ars Technica. Google has clear dominance in mobile search, with 91 percent of the market.

As the New York Times notes, should Google decide to fight the EC’s charges, the Federal Trade Commission could launch its own investigation. US  regulators have already requested that Ebay and Yelp provide information on whether Google has hindered competition; these requests, notes Bloomberg, are “civil investigative demands” that are on a par with subpoenas. The FTC is seeking to know whether Google has failed to execute its promise to direct users to competitors’ sites and whether it sells rivals “prime advertising space on search results pages.”

Google has objected to the EC’s conclusions, noting that “competition on the Web has increased dramatically in the last two years” since the EC began its investigation in November 2010, and that “innovation online has never been greater.” Nonetheless, Google says that it is “happy to discuss any concerns [the EC] might have.”

As Politico points out,  Almunia has actually given Google a “legal lifeline to devise solutions and implement them.” Google must come up with initial remedies to the four issues noted above in the next few weeks; these solutions would then need to be market-tested. Should Google be convicted of antitrust violations in the EU, the price will be steep, as these carry fines of up to 10 percent of a company’s revenue; Google’s revenue last year was nearly $38 billion.

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9:45AM PST on Feb 5, 2013

Can't say how the info on the web is edited to fit to users of a "particular" search engine. However there are certain loopholes that google could take over that sidelines its use. Also to the use of the web is fairly low due to information availed to the users.
Search engines should not be struck out as merely parallel tools revealing info to its users. They have to clearly serve the the purpose of releasing contentious data to the group of users who can proceed with their questions or use the data to clear doubts that would otherwise remain inept.

thx.

4:27PM PDT on May 23, 2012

I'm not sure what search engine to use. Bling is aggressive and it is owned by Google.

9:13AM PDT on May 23, 2012

I've tried many many search engines and I prefer Google for general use. Some of the other are better for more specific things like finding real people for example. But for products, locations, historical information Google is by far the fastest and the best. When the others have superior features I'll use them instead.

7:59AM PDT on May 23, 2012

Google is the best search engine out there. The rest are garbage. I have had a computer since they first came on the market and tried all other search engines. Nothing delivers like Google. The rest are just jealous they can not compete that is why all the complaining. If you don't like Google shut them off. Its that easy. you can use who YOU chose but leave my Google alone.

7:42AM PDT on May 23, 2012

"Google says that it is “happy to discuss any concerns [the EC] might have.”"

I bet it is! I hope they take them to the cleaners.

7:07AM PDT on May 23, 2012

Why is there a poll that DOES NOT WORK? I voted NO,as I DO NOT use Google Search!!!

6:32AM PDT on May 23, 2012

interesting

4:43PM PDT on May 22, 2012

thanks

2:16PM PDT on May 22, 2012

Thanks for posting!

1:12PM PDT on May 22, 2012

It would appear that the EU has "bent over backward" to resolve this quickly and out of court with Google. It will be interesting to see if Google will be cooperative.

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