Google Inc. (GOOG)’s power to wield customer data should be taken into account by European Union regulators as settlement talks on an antitrust probe reach the final stages, a consumer rights group said.
The dominance of Google is “largely fueled by its access to users’ personal data,” Monique Goyens, director general of the European consumers’ association BEUC, said in a letter to Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s antitrust chief.
Almunia has said the company has a limited time to settle the antitrust probe into whether it thwarts competition in the market for Web searches.
“As discussions on a possible settlement with Google are at an advanced stage, we would like to convey our concerns as regards the remedies under consideration,” Goyens wrote to the Brussels-based commission.
“Infringements of competition rules call for strong and rigorous remedies which go beyond the field of consumer information,” she said.
Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, said the company continues “to work cooperatively with the commission.”
At issue are Google’s promotion of its own specialist search services, copying of rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and agreements with websites and software developers that may stifle competition in the advertising industry, Almunia said in May. Talks with Google are “ongoing on the basis” of those concerns, said Antoine Colombani, a competition commission spokesman.
Consumer associations represented by BEUC “may be directly affected by Google’s practices,” Goyens wrote. The groups’ price comparison websites inform people on products and services and “are in direct competition with Google’s own services.”
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