While saying he’s “still investigating,” the head of the European Union’s antitrust regulatory body has told the Financial Times that he’s convinced Google is “diverting traffic” and that it will be forced to change its results.
From the FT interview:
“We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google] are diverting traffic,” Mr. Almunia told the Financial Times, referring to Google’s preferential treatment of its own vertical search services.
That’s Joaquin Almunia, who has been leading the EU’s investigation into charges that Google is acting anti-competitively with its search listings. Almunia also said he felt there was an “abuse” of Google’s dominant position in search.
The US Federal Trade Commission reached an agreement with Google earlier this month that was a big win for the company, effectively clearing it of any wrong-doing. Almunia said he expects the EU “will not be weaker” in the areas of ad portability and “scraping” — that is, summarizing content from competitor sites. Google’s agreement increases ad portability and pledges to make opting-out of scraping easier.
But on the idea that Google gives preferential treatment to its own vertical properties, Almunia suggests that the EU — unlike the FTC — will want to see changes. He told the FT that he would have to file formal charges if a Google proposal expected this month is deemed unsatisfactory.
One potential positive for Google is that Almunia said he’s concerned with the presentation of Google’s vertical search results, which suggests that the idea of better labeling — a long-rumored acceptable solution — might prove successful for Google.
Meanwhile, complainant Foundem — a small shopping search engine based out of the UK — isn’t waiting for EU action. It has just filed its own lawsuit against Google. See our related story, After Years Of Anti-Competitive Complaints Foundem Sues Google In UK Court.