EU probes Google for ‘antitrust violations’

The European Commission is looking into allegations the search giant has not been playing fair.

The European Commission (EC) today announced it was launching an investigation into the world's number one search engine after other websites claimed they were treated unfairly.

Google is accused of having "abused a dominant position in online search" by lowering the ranking of unpaid search results of competitors who offer very targeted services, such as comparison sites, to give its own services higher prominence.

It has also been accused of lowering the "Quality Score" of sponsored links for said companies, which affects the price they pay for advertising, and making companies sign exclusive advertising deals so the ads do not appear on competing websites.

"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," said a statement from the EC.

"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."

Google has strongly denied the allegations, claiming its main interest was "users, not websites."

"The nature of ranking is that some websites will be unhappy with where they rank," said a statement from the company. "Those sites have complained and even sued us over the years, but in all cases there were compelling reasons why their sites were ranked poorly by our algorithms."

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