Google warned by EU over ‘manipulating search’

28/05/2012

Google has been warned about manipulating search results for its own gain by the European Competition Commissioner and given a matter of weeks to find remedies for the problems outlined in the large anti-trust inquiry into the search company’s business. In a letter to Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, the EU’s anti-trust chief, Joaquin Almunia, outlined for the first time four areas of concern that have arisen through its lengthy investigation into the company. Almunia said the company must now "offer remedies" swiftly.

A Google spokesman said the company disagreed with the conclusions, but would work to resolve the matter.

"We're happy to discuss any concerns they might have," Google spokesman Al Verney said. "Competition on the web has increased dramatically in the last two years since the commission started looking at this and the competitive pressures Google faces are tremendous."

The commission had been investigating Google since November 2010 following complaints from several rivals.

In the letter, Almunia said Google had the chance to outline steps to address the claims, rather than face formal action.

"Should this process fail to deliver a satisfactory set of remedies, the ongoing formal proceedings will of course continue," he said.

The investigation outlined four areas where Google's practices "may be considered as abuses of dominance", Almunia said.

They are:

• The manner in which Google displays "its own vertical search services differently" from other, competing products.
• How Google "copies content" from other websites - such as restaurant reviews - to include within their own services.
• The "exclusivity" Google has to sell advertising around search terms people use.
• Restrictions surrounding portability of advertising content which prevents "seamless transfer" to other non-Google platforms.

Almunia said he had outlined these concerns in a letter to Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

Read the statement in full here

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