EC Alleges Google Restricted Competing Search Ads

The European Commission has doubled down on its charge that Google abused its dominance in search by "systematically favoring its comparison shopping service in its search result pages," and has added another allegation of favoring online advertising, both part of its ongoing investigation of the company.

The EC--which first made the shopping allegation in April 2015--says it has informed Google of the new charge in a "statement of objections." The EC's preliminary conclusion is that the company "artificially restricted the possibility of third-party websites to display search advertisements from Google's competitors."

Competition policy commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement: ""Google has come up with many innovative products that have made a difference to our lives. But that doesn't give Google the right to deny other companies the chance to compete and innovate. Today, we have further strengthened our case that Google has unduly favoured its own comparison shopping service in its general search result pages. It means consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries. We have also raised concerns that Google has hindered competition by limiting the ability of its competitors to place search adverts on third party websites, which stifles consumer choice and innovation."

The EC noted that Google had changed its AdSense contracts to give its partners more freedom to display competing search ads and would monitor that change and its impact on the ad market.

“We believe that our innovations and product improvements have increased choice for European consumers and promote competition," said a Google spokesperson. "We’ll examine the Commission’s renewed cases and provide a detailed response in the coming weeks."

Google has 10 weeks to respond to the statement of objections.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.