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Yelp takes aim at Google with EU antitrust complaint

The reviews site alleges that Google is prioritizing its own services in search.

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Yelp is targeting Google's practices.
Ullstein Bild / Getty

Yelp has filed an antitrust complaint against Google in the EU, crying out that the search giant has abused its dominance to favor its own services over competitors'.

The complaint follows a 2017 EU ruling that Google misused its dominance in shopping search results. That ruling resulted in a 2.4 billion euro fine ($2.9 billion, £2 billion or AU$3.7 billion). Google is currently appealing that decision.

Yelp's complaint alleges that the search company gives Google's own Local Search service a favorable position at the top of the page, while Yelp and other services are relegated to lower places that result in fewer clicks. Yelp is in direct competition with Google here, offering business recommendations and reviews.

"When a mother does a search for a pediatrician in Berlin, instead of being matched with rich review content from a service like German startup, Google siphons her to a degraded local experience with fewer reviews and less content. In addition to being anticompetitive, this type of conduct directly harms consumers who still assume Google is relying on its meritocratic algorithms to govern which information appears at the top of the page," said Luther Lowe, Yelp's senior vice president of public policy.

"The substantial economic data and evidence included in this complaint provides the tools needed for [EU Competition] Commissioner [Margrethe] Vestager's team to extend its finding of guilt in comparison shopping into local search, the most common form of search on Google."

Google declined to comment.

Tech giants such as Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook have often fallen foul of Europe's strict competition laws. On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dodged several questions on antitrust and competition matters during a grilling from members of the European Union's Parliament.

Yelp is asking that Vestager force Google to remove alleged favoritism from its search results. 

In 2015, Google blamed a "bug" for burying Yelp and TripAdvisor results under its own.

First published, May 23 at 4:22 a.m. PT.
Update, 6:56 a.m PT: Adds comment from Yelp.

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