Liz Gannes

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EU Still Wants to Challenge Google “Diverting Traffic” to Its Own Services

Google is abusing its dominance of the search market, according to European Commission competition official Joaquin Almunia.

shutterstock_51132958Almunia’s position doesn’t appear to be different from when he expressed it via statement in December, but he elaborated a bit in an interview with the Financial Times about which areas of Google’s business he finds troubling.

The interview comes on the heels of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission essentially clearing Google of search abuse claims in an antitrust settlement announced Jan. 3.

Google has more than 90 percent of the search market in Europe — significantly more than in the U.S. — where Bing is not as significant a player in many languages. European laws are more friendly to competition, and Almunia has more unilateral power than the FTC to exact punishment and fines.

The FT suggests that one of Almunia’s proposed punishments will be for Google to label its own services, which is not seen as a particularly strong remedy by Google’s competitors.

Basically, Google would have to more clearly show that it is referencing its own mapping, local, travel search and shopping-vertical search properties, similar to how it visually labels advertisements as such. But a bigger change would be to restrict Google from preferencing its own services over those of competitors.

Almunia said he is more or less in line with the FTC’s three restrictions on Google: No more scraping (a practice Google had already stopped), allowing advertisers to share data between Google and other services, and limitations on injunctions over standards-essential patents.

Though many details of the FTC investigation leaked out before they were announced officially, Almunia has openly discussed his process, having published his list of demands on Google last May. However, his repeated public discussion of the issue makes it that much more evident that various deadlines have been pushed back multiple times.

Asked for comment, a spokeswoman for Google said, “We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission.”


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus