Google EU Probe Delayed by ‘New Elements,’ Almunia Says

Google Inc.’s antitrust probe by European Union regulators has been delayed by “new elements,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said today.

Almunia hasn’t received a preliminary report from officials working on the probe because they had to examine the extra information, he told Bloomberg Television in an interview, without elaborating. The EU antitrust chief said he plans to make a decision on the future of the case soon.

Online travel companies Expedia Inc. and TripAdvisor Inc. were among companies in four sets of allegations over Google’s anti-competitive behavior sent to EU regulators in March and April, Google said in a regulatory filing last month. The complaints add to earlier ones from companies including Microsoft Corp., the world’s biggest software maker, that Google hampers rivals by promoting its own services in search results above rival offerings.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, is under growing pressure from global regulators probing whether the company is thwarting competition in the market for Web searches. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and antitrust agencies in Argentina and South Korea are also scrutinizing the company.

While Microsoft Corp. and partner Yahoo! Inc. have about a quarter of the U.S. Web-search market, Google has almost 95 percent of the traffic in Europe, Microsoft said in a blog post last year, citing data from regulators.

Google’s “size and success rightly generate scrutiny, which is why we’ve worked hard to explain how our business works, cooperating with the European Commission since this investigation began,” said Al Verney, a Brussels-based spokesman for the company. “Because there’s always room for improvement, we’re happy to discuss any concerns the commission might have.”

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