Google hit by wide-ranging EU anti-trust investigation

The EU has opened an anti-trust investigation into Google in reponse to allegations that it unfairly promotes its own services in search results.

“The opening of formal proceedings follows complaints by search service providers about unfavourable treatment of their services in Google’s unpaid and sponsored search results coupled with an alleged preferential placement of Google’s own services,” says the EU.

Complainants include price comparison site Foundem, French legal search engine and the Ciao price comparison service from Bing.

The Commission will examine whether Google has, as alleged, been lowering the ranking of unpaid search results for competing vertical search services such as price comparisons. By doing this, it’s alleged, Google gives preferential placement to the results of its own vertical search services and shuts out competing services.

The Commission will also look into accusations that Google has been owering the Quality Score for sponsored links of competing vertical search services – thus affecting the price paid to Google by advertisers.

And there will also be an investigation of whether Google has been imposing exclusivity obligations on advertising partners, preventing them from placing certain types of competing ads on their web sites, as well as on computer and software vendors, with the aim of shutting out competing search tools.

Finally, the EU will investigate suspected restrictions on the portability of online advertising campaign data to competing online advertising platforms.

The investigation follows individual anti-trust enquiries in Italy, Germany and France, and goes further than those being carried out in the US.