Europe Giving Google Mixed Signals: EU Hands Out Antitrust Questionnaire

There is a lot of money being spent by European governments investigating Google right now. Italy has just closed their investigation but the European Union is doing a wide spread inquiry with a 120 question survey out to various industries and companies.

Italy closed their 16 month investigation into complaints from newspaper publishers with a more transparent agreement, Network World reported. "Under the new agreement content producers will be allowed to monitor the number of clicks on links to their websites, so as to keep track of Google's earnings and their own entitlement."

Meanwhile the EU is asking if advertisers have been offered better organic search results in return for increased PPC spends or lowered results if they moved spends elsewhere. They have also asked the other engines what impact Google has in the market.

The New York Times reported the "European Commission opened a formal inquiry into Google on Nov. 30 after receiving complaints from Web companies based in France, Britain and Germany."

"Investigators also asked for supporting documents, "whatever their form," including e-mails, faxes, letters and "notes taken during telephone calls or meetings, etc." the NYT noted.

Search Engine Land published a copy of 21 of the questions including the ones where they want the companies to "indicate the gross revenues (including traffic acquisition costs, "TAC") and the net revenues (excluding TAC) generated by the online advertisements ("ads") placed on your ad network/exchange or by your media agency during the last six years (i.e. 2005-2010) (i) within the EEA and (ii) per EEA country you are active in and (iii) provide an estimate of your corresponding market share(s)"

The questions are credited with being from the shorter version given to other search engines.

Another asks "Please provide a list with the contact details of your current 20 largest publishing partners within the EEA."

The EU questions definitely reflect other companies being approached and questioned. One of the reasons Italy dropped their investigation is it "now makes it easier for publishers to quit Google News without affecting their organic search results, and promises to keep the system like that heading forward".

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.