EU chief: "Google is diverting traffic" from rivals

Search giant facing sanctions in EU as officials ponder competition claims

Stewart Mitchell
11 Jan 2013

Google may have been cleared of manipulating search results to harm rivals in the US, but the company is facing censure from EU competition bosses.

The EU's competition chief, Joaquín Almunia, has said he believes the company is tweaking search results to promote its own services while demoting potential rivals down the rankings.

The comments come as the EU plods towards a conclusion to an extensive probe into complaints that the company was distorting the web landscape via its search results.

"We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google] is diverting traffic," Almunia told the Financial Times.

"It is monetising this kind of business, the strong position it has in the general search market and this is not only a dominant position, I think – I fear – there is an abuse of this dominant position."

I think – I fear – there is an abuse of this dominant position

The comments relate to allegations from "vertical search" sites (also known as price comparison sites), such as Foundem, that its results were demoted by Google, accusations that sparked investigations on both side of the Atlantic.

UK court action

Meanwhile, that initial complainant has sought recompense through the UK courts, with Foundem suing Google for loss of earnings.

According to a report from Bloomberg, the company said in a lawsuit made public this week that it had been unfairly punished by Google because it offered a competing shopping comparison service.

The lawsuit asserts that Foundem lost traffic after being pushed down Google's search rankings.

Google has always said it doesn't demote rivals, and instead penalised Foundem and similar sites because they had limited original content.

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