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Thursday, March 21, 2013
Companies Push Europe To Charge Google

Eleven companies, rivals of Google, on Thursday sent an open letter to European Union's Competition Commissioner Joaquan Almunia urging him to formally charge Google with breaching competition law.

Google has been under investigation by the European Commission (EC) since November 2010, after competitors accused Google of favoring its own services by reducing the visibility of competing services.

The companies calling for action "are becoming increasingly concerned that effective and future-proof remedies might not emerge through settlement discussions alone." Among them are search engine Foundem, travel site TripAdvisor, online shopping platform Twenga, the Federation of German Newspaper Publishers BDZV and the German Federation of Magazine Publishers VDZ.

According to the complaint, Google promotes of its own services and the systematic demotion and exclusion of the services of others. "Any effective remedies will require explicit commitments to end both aspects," they said, adding that remedying one without remedying the other would simply allow Google to recalibrate the un-remedied practice in order to achieve the same or equivalent anti-competitive effect. "Google must be even-handed. It must hold all services, including its own, to exactly the same standards, using exactly the same crawling, indexing, ranking, display, and penalty algorithms," the complainants wrote.

To force Google to do this, Almunia should officially charge Google with anti-competitive behavior, they added. "Google?s past behavior suggests that it is unlikely to volunteer effective, future-proof remedies without being formally charged with infringement. Given this, and the fact that Google has exploited every delay to further entrench, extend, and escalate its anti-competitive activities, we urge the Commission to issue the Statement of Objections," they wrote.

A Statement of Objections is a formal step in EC investigations when the Commission informs the parties concerned allowing them to reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present comments. After this, the EC can make a final decision.

Google did not comment on the complainants' allegations, saying that it has been working with the European Commission.

On February 1, the Commission said it had received a proposal from Google to settle the antitrust investigation.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission in January ended its own investigation into Google's business practices without any significant action.

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