EU launches Google probe

by Simon Aughton on November 30, 2010

The European Commission has opened an investigation into allegations that Google has abused a dominant position in online search.

The probe was prompted by complaints from search service providers about unfavourable treatment of their services in Google’s unpaid and sponsored search results.

The Commission will examine whether Google lowered the ranking of unpaid search results of competing services while according preferential placement to the results of its own vertical search services in order to shut out competing services.

It will also look into allegations that Google lowered the ‘Quality Score’ for sponsored links of competing vertical search services, forcing them to pay higher fees to raise their ranking.

The probe will also look into allegations that Google imposes exclusivity obligations on advertising partners, preventing them from placing certain types of competing ads on their websites, and well as on computer and software vendors, with the aim of shutting out competing search tools.

Finally, it will investigate ‘suspected restrictions’ on the portability of online advertising campaign data to competing online advertising platforms

The Commission stressed that its decision to open an investigation does not imply any guilt on Google’s part.

‘This initiation of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has proof of any infringements,” it sad in a statement. ‘It only signifies that the Commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority.’

Google said that it will work with the Commission to address any concerns.

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