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EU To Probe Google

  • December 1st, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

google-girl.jpgThe European Commission will go ahead with a formal process to investigate the Google company over complaints of anti-trust behaviour, involving rigging of its computer search engine facility against competitors.

A preliminary inquiry was made earlier this year.

GOOGLE “FORMAL INQUIRY”

The Commission announced on Tuesday (30.11.10) it would act, in a statement:-

“The European Commission has decided to open an antitrust investigation into allegations that Google Inc. has abused a dominant position in online search, in violation of European Union rules (Article 102 TFEU).

“The opening of formal proceedings follows complaints by search service providers about unfavourable treatment of their services in Google’s unpaid and sponsored search results coupled with an alleged preferential placement of Google’s own services.

“This initiation of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has proof of any infringements. It only signifies that the Commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority.”

The action has drawn intense interest in the United States, and is interpreted in a New York Times article quoting the Competition Commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, that “rigorous competition of all players, including smaller and innovative ones, must be preserved for the future”.

The article points out that smaller Web businesses had made their objections in a business climate where Google has 80% market share, against 66% in the USA, quoting a research form, comScore on the figures.

“Google already faces antitrust inquiries, as well as investigations of its privacy and copyright protection policies, in several European countries”, it says.

“In addition, Other American companies have fought lengthy legal battles with European regulators in the past.”

GOOGLE AND THE REGULATORS

Google has undertaken to confer with the European Commission and expressed in intentions to “do the right thing”.

The company certainly has common interests with European regulators.

Concurrent with the announcement of the anti-trust move this week, the company made an agreement with the European Patents Office (the EPO, representing 38 countries), for it to translate patents into 29 European languages.

The scheme will simplify work on patents for researchers and inventors, in a field where national governments have failed to agree on a coordinated or standardized system.

In Brussels, the EC Justice Commissioner, Vivian Reding, was speaking of a need for comprehensive regulation to manage a plethora of information being transferred in  small parcels on line, or through Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) systems.

She told a conference that Google’s Street View mapping service would be an example of the kind of information flow that could be better handled within a single set of rules, across national borders.

TRACK RECORD – MICROSOFT CASE

microsoft1.jpgThe EU has previously locked horns with one of the giants of the US computer industry, winning a case in the European Court against Microsoft for anti-competitive behaviour.

The case against the software company, involving objections such practices as locking-in purchasers of its packages to use only Microsoft products, ended in September 2007 — after a very-drawn-out dispute.

The company was fined €497-million (then $A826-million), not really an insurmountable sum for the defendant, but with an injunction to desist from marketing practices meant to block competitors.

See EUAustralia Online, “Court confirms: Microsoft must share”, 18.9.07.

Reference

Associated Press, NY, “Google signs deal to translate European patents”, 30.11.10. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ii09fquKE4IoOnUm3d0DZSsgKaTQ?docId=74d67bf94b7643cbb2ceeb4aef664a20, (1.12.10).

Stephanie Bodoni, “Google Street View Shows Need for New Privacy Rule, Reding Says”, Bloomberg, NY, 30.11.10.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-30/google-street-view-shows-need-for-new-privacy-rule-reding-says.html, (1.12.10).

European Commission, Brussels, “Antitrust: Commission probes allegations of antitrust violations by Google”, IP/10/1624, 30.11.10.

James Kanter and Eric Pfanner, New York Times, NY, “Europe opens anti-trust inquiry in to Google”, 30.11.10.
http://www.nytimes.com/auth/login?URI=http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/technology/01google.html?src=me, (1.12.10).

The Washington Post, Business, Washington, “Update: EU Probes Allegations Of Google Antitrust Violations”, 30.11.10.
http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20101130-705487.html, (1.12.10).


Pictures

Google Girl – google

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