EU Antitrust Chief: Google “Diverting Traffic” & Will Be Forced To Change

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.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Antitrust | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • fran farrell

    Of course Google Now is not sending traffic to Yelp when it tells you to run for the next train. Time urgent stuff that Google does for your benefit is not the issue. However, planning a meal out on a two hands on device while sitting is not time urgent, nor is it conveyed to you by voice so you can continue walking. Presentation of results to couch potatoes can and should better be done with easy outs to other Apps: search, map, social, e-commerce, whatever!

  • fran farrell

    Almunia’s comments also said the EU won’t mess with the search algorithm.

  • Paul Ryan

    So, the EU is going to single out Google and yet let other search engines do the same thing? Take Bing and Google for example: aside from branding, the search listings follow a similar format and labelled in a similar way. It comes across like the EU anti-trust body are the ones abusing their dominant position in politics and regulation to go after _one_ company.

  • http://ftc.gov/ MonopolizedSearch

    No other companies accused or found guilty of antitrust violations in the past had such expansive power over nearly every industry as Google now has. With the slightest keystroke, thousands of people, who depend on ecommerce, could be out of work. Google has already sent enough companies into bankruptcy to favor big brands and their own properties. The EU should do what the FTC failed to do – demand Google Search be separated from the other properties they own so that everyone can compete in search on a level playing field. As it stands now, Google has plenty of money in the bank and an appetite for acquisitions. There’s nothing stopping Google from creating their own insurance company and selling life, home and auto insurance to the masses while favoring their own property above the likes of Allstate, State Farm, etc.

  • Kelvin Jones

    Don’t build your business around Google, do a good job and let them build theirs around yours! More and more we rely on search engines for new customers dropping traditional methods and not carrying about the printer or post man, who is now out of work because you now promote on Google instead. Then Google change 1% of searches and you’re gone, and so is that printer you used to use, and the post costs 10x as much.
    Use Google, don’t rely on it, there are hundreds of channels to promote through for retail, and B2B searches aren’t changed so drastically only against spam links, so keep it clean, hedge your bets and don’t ever leave yourself at the merci of another single business.

  • Pat Grady

    Redefining “diverting”? What’s next, evil Ecommerce stores who use trickery to divert visitors from their catalog pages right into their evil checkout honeytrap?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/michae.thompson ミク トンプソン

    Don’t be silly. A business should be successful on it’s own merits and NOT depend on Google. Adapt or die.

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