The European Union has slammed more charges on Google—extending its investigation beyond search to AdSense and AdWords. New charges brought against Google is the clearest indication yet that the end is not in sight as it concerns the EU’s investigation.
Apparently Europe’s antitrust regulators have stumbled on more facts to widen its investigation beyond Google’s dominance of the search engine market. The European Commission on Thursday announced that further Statements of Objections have been sent to Google. Brussels is accusing the search engine giant of abusing its dominant position in search areas that include, comparison shopping services. It also said Google “has weakened or even marginalized competition from its closest rivals”. It accused the search engine company of restricting ads that would directly compete against AdSense for Search product.
In April, the European Union opened up separate antitrust investigation into Google’s Android mobile OS and apps that are bundled with it. Just as reports surfaced in May that the EU was about concluding its investigation and hitting the search engine giant with a hefty fine, Google is now being slammed with further charges that may prolong the investigation.
The EU’s statement reads:
“Google has abused its dominant position by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping service in its general search results. The additional evidence relates, amongst other things, to the way Google favours its own comparison shopping service over those of competitors, the impact of a website’s prominence of display in Google’s search results on its traffic, and the evolution of traffic to Google’s comparison shopping service compared to its competitors. The Commission is concerned that users do not necessarily see the most relevant results in response to queries – this is to the detriment of consumers, and stifles innovation.”
In 2016, Google started prohibiting AdSense for Search users from accepting rival search ads. The EU deems this as unacceptable and against fair competition—hence today’s charges.
“The Commission takes the preliminary view that the practices, which have been in place for ten years, hinder competition on this commercially important market. The Statement of Objections takes issue with the exclusivity practice as from 2006. This was gradually replaced from 2009 in most contracts by the requirement of premium placement/minimum ads and the right for Google to authorise competing ads. The Commission is concerned that the practices have artificially reduced choice and stifled innovation in the market throughout the period. They have artificially reduced the opportunities for Google’s competitors on this commercially important market, and therefore the ability of third party websites to invest in providing consumers with choice and innovative services.”
“Google is now expected to respond to latest charges brought against it, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement on Thursday. Google now has the opportunity to respond to our concerns. I will consider their arguments carefully before deciding how to take both cases forward. But if our investigations conclude that Google has broken EU antitrust rules, the Commission has a duty to act to protect European consumers and fair competition on European markets.”
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