The European Commission has launched an anti-trust investigation into Google search results. In February 2010, vertical search sites such as Foundem, Ciao, and Ejustice.fr complained to the EU and the US that Google is abusing its dominance in the search industry to promote its own services over other vertical search sites. The
Foundem search engine is a price comparison site, which searches flights, hotels, and car hires along with other consumer products. Ciao is a similar search engine owned by Microsoft. Ejustice.fr is a French legal services search engine.
The EC will probe whether the world’s largest search engine is abusing its dominant position in the search market and penalising searches of other search sites by giving priority to its own services through its algorithm.
The EC’s investigation will focus on the following:
- Whether Google abused its dominant position in the online search market by allegedly lowering the ranking of unpaid search results of competing search services and by according preferential placement to the results of its own vertical search services
- Whether Google decreased the “Quality Score” for sponsored or advertisement links of competing vertical search services
- Whether Google places exclusivity obligations on advertising partners, blocking them from placing competing ads on their websites, as well as on computer and software vendors, with the aim of winning dominance over competing search tools
- Whether Google prohibits porting online advertising campaign data to competing online advertising platforms
Google has denied the allegations, adding that it would cooperate with the probe. The investigation is believed to pose some difficulties for the investigators as it is doubtful whether Google will allow them to examine its algorithm, the most important part of any search engine, and a trade secret.
Google once used to support net neutrality but when it came to test its commitment to saving net neutrality it failed by coming to an agreement with AT&T and Verizon. Now the latest probe will test Google’s commitment to search neutrality. The complaint suggests that Google has failed in saving search neutrality as well.