EU launches competition probe into Google searches

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The Independent Tech

The European Commission is launching a formal investigation into whether Google has abused its dominant market position in online searches.

The EU's competition watchdog said the probe follows complaints from other online search providers that Google put them at a disadvantage in both its paid and unpaid search results.

Google's competitors also allege that Google lists its own services above those of its rivals.

The commission's investigation does not imply any wrongdoing by Google.

Google has maintained that it has not broken any competition rules..

If the Commission finds that Google has abused its market position, the company could be fined up to 10% of its revenue - that would put it on the line for a £1.5 billion fine based on 2009 earnings figures.

The Commission has shown resolve in confronting US corporations and only last year concluded a long-running antitrust case involving Microsoft that lead to over £640 million in fines.

Three companies - U.K.-based price-comparison site Foundem, French legal search engine and Microsoft-owned shopping site Ciao - lodged complaints against Google with the commission in February.

Google controls about 90% of the online search market in Europe, and the investigation shows that the antitrust watchdog is taking the complaints seriously enough to launch an in-depth examination of the company's practices.

Google said: "Since we started Google we have worked hard to do the right thing by our users and our industry - ensuring that ads are always clearly marked, making it easy for users and advertisers to take their data with them when they switch services, and investing heavily in open source projects.

"But there's always going to be room for improvement, and so we'll be working with the Commission to address any concerns."