EU: competition chief Almunia fears Google is “abusing dominant position”

10 Jan, 2013

A British newspaper(*) is reporting that the European Union’s competition chief told ‘a newspaper’ (*) that it’s “his conviction” that Google is unfairly promoting its own services above third party services, and that he fears that Google is ‘abusing its dominant position’.

Google competitors have brought claims against the search giant with competition authorities on both sides of the Atlantic. US regulators saw nothing amiss with Google promoting its services, but Almunia is taking a stricter stance.

“We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google is] diverting traffic,” he said.

“They are monetising this kind of business, the strong position they have in the general search market…This is not only a dominant position, I think – I fear – there is an abuse of this dominant position.”

Almunia said that the problem was mostly with the way Google presents its results, rather than with the algorithms that underpin the search.

My interpretation is that Almunia is thinking about forbidding Google to display ads for its own services as top “sponsored” results above natural search results.

I did a quick check, though: it doesn’t seem as if Google is currently ‘hijacking’ other brands by displaying “sponsored search results” above them (might be a fluke result). It’s weird, because I distinctly remember seeing “sponsored links” for Google services like Gmail and Gcal above similar search results.  If anyone knows more, drop us a line. 

Although of course when searching for “calendar”, the first result is Google Calendar.

google search

Mr Almunia stressed that he was more concerned with the way that Google presents its results, rather than the complex codes at their heart. This distinction has sparked speculation that Google could be forced to clearly mark links to its

Google chairman Eric Schmidt met with Almunia shortly before Christmas to discuss ways in which the search engine could resolve the issue.

Almunia gave Google a month to come up with detailed proposals about potential concessions.

* via a British newspaper that won’t link to or name another ‘newspaper’

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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