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European Commission to investigate anti-competitive allegations against Google

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The European Union's executive body, the European Commission, has started investigating web search giant Google over anti-trust allegations by price comparison service Foundem and French legal services website ejustice.fr. At stake are allegations that Google's AdWords results are manipulated to prioritise certain advertisers.

The complainants allege price comparison sites receive a lower 'quality score', thus being knocked out of fully automated, unpaid-for results; or, being required to pay more for advertising through the search giant's AdWords program. Google rejects Foundem's allegations, arguing the majority of content on price comparison sites is duplicated from other sites, asserting Foundem "duplicates 79% of its website content from other sites, thus adding no value." The company line is, "[w]e have consistently informed webmasters that our algorithms disadvantage duplicate sites".

The European Commission has a history of carrying out anti-trust investigations involving technology companies. Microsoft was ordered to pay substantial penalties for 'bundling' Windows with their Media Player; and, within the EU, must distribute a version of Windows that does not have said bundled software. A similar battle was fought over the automatic inclusion of Internet Explorer with their operating systems.

Google has previously been the subject of anti-trust allegations and investigations. United States authorities blocked Google from buying Yahoo!, citing concerns over a near-monopoly in search; Google's purchase of mobile advertising company AdMob was also subject to anti-trust scrutiny by the US prior to being allowed to go ahead.


Sources