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EU actions against Google

EU Competition Commissioner Vestager addresses a news conference in Brussels,  15 April 2015.
EU Competition Commissioner Vestager addresses a news conference in Brussels, 15 April 2015. Reuters/Francois Lenoir

The European Union has charged web giant Google with abusing its position of power on the web.

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The company has been facing accusations of using its position of dominance to weed out competition for years, but this is the first-ever formal procedure.

The European Commission on Wednesday accused Google of "systematically favouring" its own products and companies in search results.

“Google was historically a search engine, but today it is an ecosystem of services,” said Olivier Ertzscheid, a lecturer at the University of Nantes – Brittany.

The Commission takes the view that this infringes on Europe's anti-trust rules - arguing it stifles competition and harms consumers.

“The problem is one of transparency: when you go onto Google you are not necessarily aware there are competitors,” Ertzscheid added.

Google enjoys a super-dominant position in Europe, accounting for 90 per cent of internet searches.

But “Bing, for example, does similar things but no one complains”, said Jonathan Vidor, head of the Jweb company that helps firms target customers via search engines.

Google could face heavy fines and force the company to change its business model.
It’s being billed as a landmark development for the internet era.

There are also concerns about the secret algorithm Google uses to generate the regular search results.

“One hopes that Google modifies its algorithm in the interest of consumers, but its competitors fear they use it to lower the ranking of other price comparison sites,”said Cyril Brosset of consumer protection group UFC-Que Choisir.

Google has 10 weeks to respond, and the Commission has left the door open to a settlement.

But the company has denied any allegations of harm, and has rather bluntly stated that the web offers users plenty of choice.

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