EU finds Google in potential breach of antitrust laws, cites four concerns

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Image: Dimitar Nikolov/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Back in November 2010, the European Commission launched an antitrust investigation into Google after two websites complained. Now, the results are in – and Google could face a suit on its hands, after it found four areas where it may be considered an abuse of its market dominance.

The four areas include:

  • Linking of its own ‘vertical’ search services – or search engines that focus on specific topics (like restaurants, news or products). It notes that, “Google displays links to its own vertical search services differently than it does for links to competitors. We are concerned that this may result in preferential treatment compared to those of competing services, which may be hurt as a consequence.”
  • How Google copies content from vertical search engines and put it in its own offerings “without their prior authorisation”. It says that by doing this, it is essentially “appropriating” the benefits of others and the Commission is worried that it could reduce incentives to invest of original content from others for the benefit of all internet users.
  • Advertising is their third concern – most importantly, the “exclusivity” of the agreement which says that they have to obtain most or all of its advertising from Google. They fear that this will shut out other providers.
  • Their fourth concern is the portability of advertising campaigns on its AdWords platform. Basically, they want Google to allow campaigns from AdWords to be easily transferable to other platforms so they could use another platform, but run the same campaign.

The European Commission, however, have said that they are willing to negotiate a “remedies package” – which means Google has to provide ways in easing the concerns of the Commission on the four areas. They have not started any case yet, and Google could stave off a massive fine if they negotiate and are able to find some agreement to the four areas of concerns.

“If Google comes up with an outline of remedies which are capable of addressing our concerns, I will instruct my staff to initiate the discussions in order to finalise a remedies package,” Joaquin Almunia, the Vice President responsible for Competition Policy, said in a statement.

“This would allow to solve our concerns by means of a commitment decision… instead of having to pursue formal proceedings with a Statement of objections and to adopt a decision imposing fines and remedies.”

And if not, then we could see massive fines – like Microsoft and Intel – and be forced to change their policies to comply (only for Europe, however). For Microsoft, the European Commission has basically forced them to allow more competitors – like not allowing Internet Explorer being bundled with Windows 7 (and giving you the option to choose and download another browser).

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