The European Commission has launched an investigation into Google following allegations from competing search engines that that the Internet giant was manipulating search results.
“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 the EC in a statement.
The Commission said that there was no proof as yet that Google had abused a dominant position but that the Commission will “conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority.”
The investigation will centre on the role of Google’s ranking of search results, particularly as they apply to results appearing from what the EC is calling rival search engines, such as ‘Foundem’ which was named as one of the complaints.
Foundem is one of a great many shopping comparison web sites, a genre of service which Google has been up front about giving a lower search prority on other sites on the basis that the content that appears tends to be recycled content repackaged in order to obtain affiliate click-through fees.
The shopping site launched a campaign web site called searchneutrality.org where it alleges that Google’s practices “exploiting its dominance of search in ways that stifle innovation, suppress competition, and erode consumer choice.”
“There is a growing chasm between the enduring public perception of Google’s search results as comprehensive and impartial, and the reality that they are increasingly neither” said Foundem’s CEO and co-founder Shivaun Raff.
Google argues that that the lowered rankings of these ‘search engines’ provides better and more relevant results, rather than returning results to shopping sites pointing to the same place. Addressing Foundem specifically, Google said that the company “duplicates 79% of its website content from other sites.”