Google faces EU crackdown for diverting traffic to own services


Search giant accused of abusing its position by EU competition chief Joaquin Almunia

LAST UPDATED AT 08:20 ON Fri 11 Jan 2013

GOOGLE is facing a crackdown by European Union anti-trust investigators for diverting traffic to its own services and damaging rivals, the Financial Times reports.

Joaquin Almunia, the EU competition chief, told the paper the issue is how Google presents the results of searches, especially how it shows additional services such as maps, airline flight deals or shopping price comparisons. The secret 'black box' algorithm which powers Google searches is not under attack.

"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," Almunia told the FT.

The tough line being taken by the EU is in contrast to the easier ride given to Google by the United States Fair Trade Commission which last week ended a similar probe into the search giant without imposing sanctions.

The EU could force Google to warn internet users when it is placing its own services above those of rivals. This would be a potential threat to Google chief executive Larry Page's long-term plan to turn the company from a search engine to a 'knowledge engine' which answers user queries directly from within its databases.

Almunia says that Google has recently taken a more conciliatory line with the EU after he warned last month that he would issue formal charges.

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