Feeds

Google snubs Euro watchdog's 'abuse of dominance' claims

Happy to have a chat about 'concerns'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Google remains at loggerheads with anti-competition officials in Brussels, who today went public for the first time with concerns about the search giant's "abuses of dominance".

The company's European public policy spokesman Al Verney has told Reuters that Google was disappointed by the European competition commissioner's latest findings, which were drawn up as part of his office's ongoing probe into alleged antitrust behaviour.

"We disagree with the conclusions but we're happy to discuss any concerns they might have," Verney said.

However, competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia's strong-arming of Google to reach a swift settlement was welcomed by complainants in the investigation, which began in November 2010.

Shivaun Raff, the CEO of UK-based vertical search engine Foundem which spurred on separate antitrust probes into Google on both sides of the Atlantic, told The Register that she was glad that her beef with the search giant had been addressed by the commissioner in Brussels this morning.

She said:

Foundem’s complaint, filed in November 2009 and updated in February 2010, was the first to document how Google systematically manipulates its ostensibly neutral search results to promote its own services while simultaneously demoting or excluding those of its competitors.

We are pleased that the commission has affirmed Foundem’s complaint, listing search manipulation as its first concern.

Foundem’s goal has always been to ensure that Google exercises its extraordinary market power responsibly, by reinstating the level playing field that is required for innovation and competition to thrive.

We have always emphasised the urgent need for a swift end to Google’s anti-competitive practices, and we are pleased that the commission is pursuing a path that could result in the particularly rapid implementation of binding remedies.

Raff added that the "imposition of remedies" was "now all but inevitable".

Microsoft-backed lobbying group ICOMP, of which Foundem is also a member, said that there appeared to be clear implication that Almunia's team had "found that Google’s behaviour constituted an abuse of its dominant position in the online search market".

It added its concerns that Google's actions may have violated European competition law. ICOMP said:

It is vital that the terms of any agreed settlement include measures to quickly redress the harm caused to European businesses and consumers and are sufficiently robust to ensure that such harm is not repeated. We trust that this will prove to be the case and a competitive online market place will be restored.

Fairsearch - a consortium also supported by Microsoft, Foundem, Expedia, Tripadvisor and others - said the concerns outlined by Almunia were a "welcome development" in the ongoing investigation.

The group's EU counsel Thomas Vinje said that he was pleased that the competition commissioner had "validated the concern that FairSearch members and many other businesses and consumer advocates have raised about Google's practices that distort the free market and deprive consumers of the transparency and real choice that only results from competitive markets".

He added: "Any settlement between Google and the EC would need to restore lost competition and remedy the anticompetitive effects of Google's conduct in both specialised and general search."

What might Google's next step be? It seems unlikely that the company will simply roll over and let its belly be tickled by the commissioner. But with a market share of more than 90 per cent of search in Europe, the internet giant, much like with Microsoft's software dominance before it, might very well have no choice but to concede. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.