Commission opens investigation against Google over allegations of antitrust violations

The European Commission has decided to open an antitrust investigation into allegations that Google Inc. has abused a dominant position in online search. The opening of formal proceedings follows complaints by search service providers about unfavourable treatment of their services in Google's unpaid and sponsored search results coupled with an alleged preferential placement of Google's own services.

By opening this procedure, the Commission will investigate whether Google Inc. has abused a dominant market position in online search by allegedly lowering the ranking of unpaid search results of competing services which are specialised in providing users with specific online content such as price comparisons also called vertical search services; and by according preferential placement to the results of its own vertical search services in order to shut out competing services. The opening of this investigation follows the preliminary investigation opened against Google back in February 2010 for alleged anti-competitive practices.

The Commission will also look into allegations that Google lowered the 'Quality Score' for sponsored links of competing vertical search services, one of the factors that determine the price paid to Google by advertisers.

Commission's probe will additionally focus on allegations that Google imposes exclusivity obligations on advertising partners, preventing them from placing certain types of competing ads on their web sites, as well as on computer and software vendors, with the aim of shutting out competing search tools. Finally, it will investigate suspected restrictions on the portability of online advertising campaign data to competing online advertising platforms.