Lia Vitzilaiou, Jan 27, 2011
On November 30, 2010, the European Commission issued a press release which many were worried about, others looking forward to, but almost everyone anticipated: Google is under formal antitrust investigation with regard to an alleged abuse of dominance in the online search market.
The Commission will investigate three main issues. The first is whether Google has manipulated its unpaid or “algorithmic” search results by giving preferential placement to its own results while lowering the ranking of those offered by competitors, i.e. vertical search engines. The second issue is whether Google has imposed exclusivity contracts on its advertising partners, preventing them from placing ads on competitive websites. Finally, the Commission will look into whether Google has restricted the portability of online advertising campaign data to competing online advertising platforms.
This development was expected by most, not only because Google has recently been the center of attention for many national competition authorities (the latest being the Italian antitrust investigation in the Google News Service which ended by compromise) but also because the Commission seems to have lately targeted powerful technology companies. Since 2004, when Microsoft was fined EUR 497 million for abuse of dominance, to 2008 when a further EUR 899 million penalty was imposed for failure to comply with the 2004 ruling, up to 2009 when Intel was fined a historic EUR 1.1 bi