EU hints at Google crackdown

Google is facing the threat of regulatory sanctions in Europe, with the continent's competition watchdog signaling a tougher crackdown on the search engine giant only days after it was cleared by a US probe.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ended a long-running investigation in the Californian firm last week by concluding that it was not tweaking its search results in way that might impact rivals companies. But a separate EU probe has not yet been settled - and today, EU Competition Commissioner hinted that it was heading in the opposite direction.

"We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google] are diverting traffic," Joaquín Almunia said, raising the prospect of tougher action than in the US, where Google made voluntary changes to its practices but was not accused of wrongdoing in the way it runs its search business.

"They are monetising this kind of business, the strong position they have in the general search market and this is not only a dominant position, I think – I fear – there is an abuse of this dominant position," Mr Almunia told the Financial Times.

His comments stand in sharp contrast to those made by FTC chief Jon Leibowitz last week. "Even though people would like us to bring a big search bias case, the facts aren't there," he said, announcing the conclusion of the US probe.