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Brussels has Google in its sights (again)

08/02/2016 11:25
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The European Commission is accusing the US giant of abuse in its online advertising. The colossus from Mountain View is also battling on another two fronts in the European arena.

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A third front open against Google from the European Union. Brussels maintains that for one decade the US company has imposed abusive conditions on its main AdSense clients, whom it subjects to a regime of:   

 - Exclusivity: third parties are not allowed to source search ads from Google's competitors.   

 - Preference: third parties are required to have a minimum number of search ads from Google and reserve the most prominent space on their search results pages to Google search ads.   

 - They are also obliged to ask the US giant for permission before making changes to the way the ads are displayed.

Brussels says that with these practices, Google is preventing "potential competitors, including other search providers and online advertising platforms, from entering and growing in this commercially important area".

The European Union notes that “Google places search ads directly on the Google search website but also as an intermediary on third party websites through its AdSense for Search platform ('search advertising intermediation'). These include third-party websites such as online retailers, telecoms operators and newspapers.”

“The websites offer a search box that allows users to search for information. Whenever a user enters a search query, in addition to the search results, also search ads are displayed. If the user clicks on the search ad, both Google and the third party receive a commission”.

Other open fronts for Google

This is not the only open front against the US company. It is also accused of favoring its comparison shopping service over its competitors in its search results, and also due to the Android operating system used in cellphones. 

The European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that there is new evidence to prove that in product searches Google was “systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages", meaning that "users do not necessarily see the most relevant results in response to queries”.

Google alleges that coming first on the page makes no difference to its traffic. “We have done further work that shows that visibility and traffic are two sides of the same coin”, responds Vestager. “For many, that seems to be common sense. Now we have further evidence on file to back it up”.

The US multinational also claims in its defense that its comparison shopping service is not really dominant because it competes with that of other multinationals such as Amazon and eBay. But Vestager also rejects this argument. “The facts unveiled by our investigation do not support this. Merchant platforms are in a different market –in fact, they are customers rather than competitors of comparison shopping services”, said the commissioner.

Source: European Commission, Cinco Días.