EC reportedly prepping 400+ page finding against Google

The European Commission is said to be readying a lengthy Statement of Objections against Google for abusing its market dominance in Web search.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September. Greg Sandoval/CNET

The European Commission will issue a lengthy Statement of Objections, the equivalent of a preliminary finding, against Google for abusing its market dominance, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The report, which cited "sources close to the case," said that the statement of objections would run more than 400 pages in order to cover the complexity of the case as well as "the number of complainants." And the commission will issue the Statement of Objections, which is said to lay out details of Google's alleged abuses, early next year.

Google did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The commission launched its investigation into allegations that Google abused its dominant position in search a year ago. The probe was prompted by complaints from several rivals including Foundem, eJustice, and Microsoft-owned Ciao, which claimed that Google had unfairly manipulated search results by lowering the rankings of competing services and elevating its own offerings in unpaid results.

The commission is also looking into claims that Google lowered so-called "Quality Scores," a factor that helps determine the price advertisers pay to Google, for sponsored links from the rivals. If two advertisers use the same keywords, the one with the lower Quality Score has to pay more to rank evenly with the one that has the higher score.

The commission is investigating exclusivity obligations on advertisers, something Ciao alleged. Those obligations bar advertisers from using the same ads they run on Google on their own sites or competing search engines such as Bing and Yahoo.

The report noted that Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is scheduled to visit European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia early next week. But their discussions are likely to focus on Google's pending acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Google provided official notification last Friday about its planned merger. And the commission plans to review the deal and make a decision whether to approve it by January 10.

According to the report, Google will have two months to respond to the Statement of Objections, though the commission could grant an extension given the length of the finding.

About the author

Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).

 

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