EU: Regulator wants info on Google antitrust actions

European Union officials are looking for feedback on Google’s attempts to shut down two antitrust investigations.

 

Sources revealed to Bloomberg that Google started showing a box with links to rival websites in March in addition to the usual search results in response to the EU investigating complaints that less search traffic was going to these competitor sites.

Regulators have reportedly sent out screenshots of Google’s box showing three restaurant booking sites, asking various travel companies for their opinions on the sites. In addition, the EU asked recruitment companies about how links to job websites have been displayed. The companies have until June 13 to send initial responses.

The links box is similar to a solution Google has already been using to comply with a 2017 EU order that required the tech giant to give equal treatment to other shopping comparison websites. It’s a fix that its rivals, including Yelp, don’t believe is enough to remedy the situation.

“The amount of traffic Google has stolen from the web has doubled over Vestager’s term, and attempting to put a Band-Aid on that problem with a rival links proposal doesn’t address the core problem,” Luther Lowe, Yelps’ government affairs vice president, said in an interview on Wednesday, June 12.

Google and the European Commission declined to comment on this latest report. Just this past March, Google was hit with a fine of €1.49 billion (US$1.7 billion) by the EU for limiting how some websites used display ads sold by competitors. The fine is centered on what the EU claimed was the firm’s abuse of its dominant position in the search engine market and efforts by Google to block companies that sell text ads based on search results of rivals.

This recent fine is the third antitrust penalty from the European Union since 2017.

“Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief, at the time. “This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”

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