Has Google abused its dominant position in search in the European Union? That will be the focus of antitrust regulators as they formally investigate complaints of discrimination in Google's paid and organic search results.
The European Commission (EC) investigation will look at allegations of:
- Organic bias: Google is accused of giving preferential treatment to its own vertical search results at the expense of other providers -- and intentionally lowering rankings of other sites.
- Paid bias: Google is accused of lowering the quality score on sponsored links of competing vertical search services.
- Exclusivity: Google is accused of trying to shut out competing search tools by telling advertising partners that they can't place certain types of competing ads on their websites.
- Portability restrictions: Google is accused of restricting the ability to use data on competing online advertising platforms.
"We respect their process and will continue to work closely with the Commission to answer their questions," Google wrote via its Public Policy Blog.
Google also told Bloomberg that it "worked hard to do the right thing by our users and our industry" by marking ads clearly and enabling users and advertisers to move data to other services and that its contracts "can't prevent users from choosing other search providers." It said online contracts for AdSense "have never been exclusive" and that it stopped using exclusive terms for non-online contracts almost two years ago.
Antitrust complaints were originally filed by three companies -- U.K. price comparison site Foundem (partly funded by Microsoft), French legal search engine ejustice.fr, and Microsoft's Ciao by Bing in February.