Google must answer EU antitrust concerns over search

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Google has "a matter of weeks" to allay concerns it is abusing its dominant position in the search engine market, the European Commission has said.

An investigation by Europe's antitrust head Joaquin Almunia looked at whether Google gave preferential treatment to its own services in its search results.

Mr 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."

Formal proceedings

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

In a statement, Mr 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", Mr 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.

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

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