European regulators have accused search engine giant Google of engaging in anti-competitive behaviour by favouring its own services over those of rivals.
Officials launched an investigation after receiving complaints that the way Google displays links unfairly promotes its services over those of competitors, thereby giving it a competitive advantage.
Complainants include Microsoft, Tripadvisor and Streetmap who say the search giant, which accounts for more than 90% of web searches in Europe, was behaving illegally.
Today EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager backed those claims and said the firm had been abusing its dominance in search by giving links to its shopping comparison service unfair prominence at the top of search result pages.
In a statement she said: “This display is irrespective of whether it is the most relevant response to the query. Thus, Google’s commercial product is not subject to the same algorithms as other comparison shopping services.
“Google has engaged in this conduct in a broad number of Member States since 2008, and continues to do so.”
Google says it “strongly” disagrees with the allegations and insisted web users were able to “find and access information in numerous different ways,” including via Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana virtual personal assistant services.
It now has 10 weeks to respond to the Commission’s concerns. If found guilty it could face hefty fines and be forced to make changes to its business model.
Commissioner Vestager has also announced an investigation into whether the way Google bundles apps in its freely available Android smartphone operating system is unfair.
This investigation follows complaints that Google is “requiring or incentivising smartphone and tablet manufacturers to exclusively pre-install Google’s own applications or services, in particular Google’s search engine.”