Google could be abusing position, says Brussels

The European Commission has given Google "a matter of weeks" to change its internet search policy after Brussels regulators ruled that the US web giant could be abusing its dominant position.

The EU competition chief, Joaquin Almunia, warned that if Google failed to comply, he would launch a formal investigation that could lead to fines worth up to 10 per cent of revenues,

Mr Almunia said he was keen to avoid a full-blown inquiry and urged the US internet giant to accept a series of remedies. "Restoring competition swiftly to the benefit of users at an early stage is always preferable to lengthy proceedings," he said as he announced the findings of a preliminary investigation lasting 18 months.

Microsoft and several small internet firms had complained to Brussels that Google's search engine has favoured its own services and sometimes pushed other companies down its search rankings. There have also been allegations that Google's advertising system could be biased against competitors.

The British price comparison website Foundem, which complained to Brussels, welcomed the ruling. "There is a growing chasm between the enduring public perception of Google as comprehensive and impartial and the reality that it has become increasingly neither," its co-founder Shivaun Raff said .

Google has more than 90 per cent of the internet search market in Britain and some firms say that a low ranking in search results has had a dramatic effect on their business.

A Google spokesman said it disagreed with the EU's conclusions but added: "We're happy to discuss any concerns they might have."

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