Europe Says Google Has an Antitrust Problem

     (CN) – After a two-year probe, the European Commission ordered Google on Monday to address “four concerns where Google business practices may be considered as abuses of dominance” or face antitrust litigation.
     The commission says its examination and subsequent investigation uncovered antitrust violations, mostly related to the way Google’s search engine works.
     In its general search results, Google displays links to its own vertical search services that focus on specific topics like restaurants, news, shopping or products.
     “Alongside its general search service, Google also operates several vertical search services of this kind in competition with other players,” Joaquin Almunia, the commission vice president responsible for competition policy, said in a statement. “In its general search results, 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.”
     The commission also alleges that Google copies content like user reviews from competing vertical search services without permission, and then passes the content off as its own.
     “In this way they are appropriating the benefits of the investments of competitors. We are worried that this could reduce competitors’ incentives to invest in the creation of original content for the benefit of internet users,” Almunia said.
     The commission is also concerned that the search advertisements Google displays next to search results on other websites are “shutting out competing providers of search advertising intermediation services,” according to the statement.
     Finally, the commission said it objects to the restrictions on software developers put in place by the company’s AdWords auction-based advertising platform.
     “We are concerned that Google imposes contractual restrictions on software developers which prevent them from offering tools that allow the seamless transfer of search advertising campaigns across AdWords and other platforms for search advertising,” Almunia said.
     The commission says it notified Google chairman Eric Schmidt of its findings by letter, suggesting the company come up with remedies that address the body’s four concerns within “a matter of weeks.”
     “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 finalize a remedies package,” Almunia said, adding that Google has repeatedly offered to discuss the commission’s concerns “without having to engage in adversarial proceedings.”
     If Google fails to deliver a satisfactory set of remedies however, Almunia warned that a court date is likely.
     “I hope that Google seizes this opportunity to swiftly resolve our concerns, for the benefit of competition and innovation in the sector,” the commission official added.

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