EU Tackles Google Dominance in Antitrust Probe
|Google Antitrust Probe|
BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union has launched an antitrust probe on internet king Google on Tuesday, after complaints the Silicon Valley giant abused its dominant position in the online search market.
European Union competition watchdogs formally announced their investigation, after rivals accused Google of “unfavorable treatment” of their services in both unpaid and sponsored search results, the crucial listings that make the web navigable.
Competition authorities are probing whether Google’s own services – the company has branched out into just about every web domain there is – are getting “preferential placement” when users punch in search queries, some of which may lead to consumer spending.
The official probe will certainly take months, and potentially carries echoes of a decade of antitrust pursuit of fellow computer giant Microsoft over issues from operating systems to web browsers.
An investigation does not necessarily mean legal action will follow, although fines in similar cases have run to many hundred of millions of Euros in the past.
Google’s share of the core US search market grew to 66.1% in September, according to industry tracker comScore.
The company posted a 32% leap in net profit to $2.17 billion between July and September, its latest available results.
One of the complainants, British search site Foundem, said in a statement that its revenue “pales next to the hundreds of billions of dollars of other companies’ revenues that Google controls indirectly through its search results and sponsored links.”
The commission wants to check if Google was “lowering the ranking of unpaid search results” as well as other allegations of advertising interference including imposing exclusivity clauses, restricting ads from competing providers and data on consumer impact.
Google said it would cooperate with the prove, saying: “There’s always going to be room for improvement, and so we’ll be working with the commission to address any concerns.”
It insisted it had always sought to ensure that “ads are always clearly marked.”
Microsoft’s portion of the US market improved a fraction to 11.2% while that of Yahoo! slipped from 17.4% in August to 16.7% in September, comScore reported last month.
Approximately $12.4 billion will be spent in the United States this year on ads on search engines, with Google expected to rake in 73.3% of that cash, according to Marketer.