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No conclusions on EU's Google probe for weeks

Antitrust chief: 'We won't be rushed! Besides we're on hols'

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The European Commission's antitrust chief has said that the body won't be pressured into an early decision on its investigation into Google over web search dominance.

The EC started the probe in November 2010 after other web firms complained that Google was abusing its dominance as a search engine behemoth. Critics accuse the Chocolate Factory of using its search results to direct people to its own services and away from its rivals' products.

On March 19, the European Consumers' Organisation added its voice to the concerns, writing a letter (PDF) to the EU antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia that was made public this week. The organisation was reported as saying that it expected the investigation to come up with some recommendations in the next few days.

However, at a press conference today, Almunia said there'd be nothing new until after 8 April at the earliest.

"[The investigating team] has asked me for some more days, even weeks, because next week we have holidays for some people," he said, according to Reuters.

"Maybe after Easter we will have some more clear consideration... We want to advance in our investigation but we want to advance on a solid basis, not because of a letter or some pressures," he added.

Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumers' Organisation, said that the body was concerned that Google could have abused its dominant position to the detriment of consumers.

"Google continues to expand its areas of activities and develop its own services and products. Given its role as gatekeeper to the internet, Google is in a unique position to restrict access to its competitors and direct traffic to its own services," she said in the letter.

"We expect the European Commission to take a strong stance and protect the principle of search neutrality according to which search results should be impartial and based solely on their relevance to consumers’ queries. It is important that the European Commission exercises its powers to sanction dominant companies who abuse their position to the detriment of consumer welfare."

Complaints against Google as a search engine, which are being pursued in the US as well as the EU, have come from a number of search engines as well as the Fairsearch organisation, an affiliation of web companies including Microsoft, Trip Advisor and Expedia, among others. ®

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