28th May 2022

Brussels investigates Google over allegations of search 'fixing'

The European Commission has launched an investigation into internet giant Google after allegations of anti-competitive search engine results 'fixing' by competitors.

The anti-trust probe will explore whether the firm has violated EU anti-trust rules. A trio of competitors, including Microsoft, who provide their own tailored search services, have alleged that Google has abused its market dominance by according preferential treatment to the results of its own products and lowered the ranking of others to crush rivals.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Internet cafe: the commission says the probe should not be taken as a presumption of guilt (Photo: Lee Jordan)

The three, Ciao from Microsoft's search engine, Bing; British price comparison engine Foundem; and e-Justice, a French legal affairs search service, say that Google is pushing down their results in its ranking and favouring its own versions of such products.

The commission will also be probing whether contracts with the company's Ad-Sense offering, which serves up text-based avertisements to websites, limits the ability of firms to woo other ad services for their sites.

Brussels has the ability to slap fines of up to 10 percent of revenues if Google is found to be behaving as a monopolist.

The EU executive in the past has not shied away from handing out multi-billion fines to the likes of Intel and Microsoft.

However, the commission stressed that the move was only an investigation and that there should be no presumption of guilt on the part of Google.

"This initiation of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has proof of any infringements," said the commission in a statement. "It only signifies that the commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority."

However, antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia told MEPs in Brussels on Tuesday (30 November) that as the company's share of the market was a whopping 90 percent, "We cannot ignore this, and we need to do our best to follow up this investigation."

Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, an industry lobby group whose members include Microsoft, E-Bay and Oracle, cheered the commission's decision to launch an enquiry.

"The number of smaller competitors discovering their search rankings have been manipulated continues to rise, particularly in niche areas, like local search, where Google has struggled to compete," he said.

However, Google for its part gives the impression of being very relaxed about the investigation.

The company says that search rankings are produced by computer algorithms and at no point do any humans interfere. The low ranking of Foundem for example, they say, is simply because it is a bad service.

EU Commission extends borrowing curbs in 2023

The European Commission on Monday proposed to extend suspension of fiscal borrowing rule in 2023 — but advised prudence amid already rising real interest rates.

Commission grilled on RePowerEU €210bn pricetag

EU leaders unveiled a €210bn strategy aiming to cut Russian gas out of the European energy equation before 2027 and by two-thirds before the end of the year — but questions remain on how it is to be financed.

MEPs raise ambition on EU carbon market reform

MEPs on the environment committee agreed on reform of the European carbon market — including expanding it to buildings and transport. They also want to extend the scope of the carbon border tax, and phase out free permits by 2030.

EU countries rush to expand gas import capacity

EU plans to quit Russian gas and replace it, in part, by importing overseas liquified natural gas has lead to a flurry of new gas projects — which threaten to lock in unnecessary gas use for decades.

Commission grilled on RePowerEU €210bn pricetag

EU leaders unveiled a €210bn strategy aiming to cut Russian gas out of the European energy equation before 2027 and by two-thirds before the end of the year — but questions remain on how it is to be financed.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us