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EU determining if Google abusing search dominance

European Union regulators are in the process of determining whether Google dominates search and, if so, whether it engages in the "abuse of dominance."

Regulators in the European Union are evaluating whether Google is a dominant force in search and, if so, whether the company is abusing its position.

According to Reuters, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia spoke today at a conference in Florence about the regulatory body's evaluation of Google. Almunia reportedly said that the EU is "trying to determine whether the company holds a dominant position in Internet search." What's more, Almunia said, according to Reuters, the commission is also trying to decide whether Google abuses its power in the marketplace.

"Google is the browser of choice for very many of us; but dominance is not the same as abuse of dominance," Almunia said, according to Reuters. "Abuse is a conduct that protects or extends dominance by illegitimate means, and we still have to conclude whether this is the case for Google."

Last November, the European Commission announced that it was launching an antitrust investigation into Google's practices. The investigation was initiated following complaints from search providers, including Microsoft-owned Ciao, claiming Google had unfairly manipulated search results by lowering the rankings of competing services and elevating its own options in unpaid results.

Related stories:
• EU to investigate Google after complaints
• EC launches antitrust probe against Google
• Why Microsoft is taking on Google in Europe

Following that announcement, Microsoft said in March that it had filed a formal complaint with the European Commission against Google. The software company alleged that Google "has taken to entrench its dominance in the markets for online search and search advertising to the detriment of European consumers."

"How does it do this?" Microsoft senior vice president and general counsel, Brad Smith, asked at the time. "Google has built its business on indexing and displaying snippets of other organizations' Web content. It understands as well as anyone that search engines depend upon the openness of the Web in order to function properly, and it's quick to complain when others undermine this. Unfortunately, Google has engaged in a broadening pattern of walling off access to content and data that competitors need to provide search results to consumers and to attract advertisers."

A look at Google's search engine market share in Europe, courtesy of NetMarketShare.
A look at Google's search engine market share in Europe, courtesy of NetMarketShare. NetMarketShare

That "walling off" of access to content and data is especially a problem in Europe. When companies have a dominant position in a market in Europe, they are required to share technical data to help rivals compete. Google, Microsoft alleges, hasn't done anything of the sort.

Google, which owns about 95 percent of the desktop search market in Europe, compared with Bing's 2 percent share, has been relatively tight-lipped on the Commission's investigation. However, Google did tell CNET in November that it will "be working with the Commission to address any concerns," adding that it's "investing heavily in open-source projects."

Google did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.