Google Inc (GOOGL) receives new anti-competition complaint in EU by Open Internet Project

Posted May 15, 2014

The European Commission is investigating a case against Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) again. The EU alleges Google is abusing its dominant market position to promote its own services to stifle competition. Representing 400 EU startups, online publishers, consumer associations, and digital rights groups, The Open Internet Project (OIP) is the organization behind the complaint. The Commission will look into the complaint before deciding if an investigation is warranted.

Fortunately for the search giant, Google resolved a similar antitrust case with the commission recently. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said today that he is satisfied with the solution that Google came up with to remedy previous complaints. Google has been investigated by the Commission ever since November 2010 after competitors accused the search giant of directing users to its own services by reducing the visibility of competing websites in search results.

The investigation looked into the way that Google reduced the visibility of rivals, scraped content, the contractual restrictions that prevented advertisers from moving online campaigns to rival search engines, and exclusivity deals with advertisers.

Google proposed to present three rival links for each query, which would be separated from Google’s service and would be clearly labeled. Google also said it would indicate when Google promotes its own services. Google also agreed to allow content providers to opt-out of having their content used without it affecting search or AdWords. Google will be removing all exclusivity obligations from advertising contracts for five years to make the portability of online advertising campaigns easier.

?These concessions would give a real opportunity to Google?s rivals to attract users,? stated Almunia. ?It would then be for users to choose the service they want to click on. These decisions are up to informed users, not to competition authorities.?

The OIP believes that these remedies do not go far enough. ?The European Commission is planning to give in to the giant by concluding a settlement largely behind closed doors that would in principle legalize Google?s self-preference,? said the OIP in a statement. The OIP wants the European Commission to give Google stricter penalties.

Almunia may throw out the case since it is similar to the one that was just closed.