While the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into how Google serves up search results went out with a whimper last week, the European Union’s antitrust enforcer has issued an aggressive public challenge of the company’s practices.
“We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google] are diverting traffic,” Joaquín Almunia told the Financial Times (sub).
Almunia referred to Google’s preferential treatment of its own vertical search services, such as maps, or airline flight or shopping comparison information. Because consumers could easily switch to Bing or Yahoo if they were dissatisfied enough with their search results on Google, the FTC found that the practice did not run afoul of antitrust regulations.
But Europe applies a somewhat looser standard for “abuse of dominance.” Google also controls an even greater share of the search market in Europe.
Google has sought to keep its algorithm off limits for regulators, for which it has garnered some support among those who say that government regulations are clunky and will hamper innovation in such dynamic areas.
Amit Singhal, the VP who heads Google’s core ranking team, told the New York Times that the company has brought more information to the search results page to accommodate mobile users, who have less patience for following links than desktop users.
Yet, European limits would seem to affect just that functionality, as the information promotes information from Google’s own vertical search products.