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Antitrust probe to deliver 400-page wad detailing complaints

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Google will be hit with a statement of objections document from the antitrust wing of the European Commission that is reportedly more than 400 pages in length.

According to the Financial Times, that tome – detailing complaints from a variety of outfits that allege Google abused its dominant position in the search engine market – will land on CEO Larry Page's lap in early 2012.

The EC opened a formal investigation into allegations that Google has abused its dominant position in online search by illegally favouring, or gaming, its own services in November last year.

Those formal proceedings followed complaints from search providers that Mountain View's sponsored and unpaid search results showed preference to Google's own services.

Investigators have been probing evidence that Google allegedly lowered the results position of rival services such as price comparison sites in its unpaid results. The commission has also been looking at allegations that Google unfairly lowered the "Quality Score" for sponsored links of competing services.

Brussels has additionally been investigating claims that Google imposes exclusivity agreements with advertisers which prevent them from displaying adverts from rival search services on their own sites.

Allegations of restrictions of the portability of online advertising campaign data to other online advertising platforms, has also been probed by the EC.

The original complainants – Foundem, eJustice and Microsoft-owned Ciao! – whose gripes with Google prompted the EC into opening an investigation into those allegations, were later joined by a chorus of other companies that claimed the ad broker was abusing its dominant online position.

In June this year the US Federal Trade Commission confirmed it had opened its own antitrust investigation into Google's search and advertising practices.

Meanwhile, the FT reports that Google chairman Eric Schmidt will be in Brussels next week pressing flesh with EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia, presumably to ensure that the company's buyout of Motorola Mobility gets the nod from Euro regulators.

The European Commission said late last month that Google had applied for permission to takeover $12.5bn Motorola Mobility on 25 November. Brussels gave Mountain View a provisional deadline of 10 January for its answer.

It will be interesting if January 2012 ends up being the month when Google potentially clears one competition hurdle only to be floored by another. ®

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