Google Will Face More EU Antitrust Complaints, Almunia Says
Google Inc. (GOOG) will trigger more complaints to European Union antitrust regulators given its “extremely large” market share for Web search and advertising, the EU’s competition commissioner said.
Joaquin Almunia, the region’s antitrust chief, said a complaint about Google filed by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) last week will “not be the last one” and regulators had received more than 500 responses to questionnaires sent to Web companies, publishers, and advertisers earlier this year.
Google is under growing pressure from global regulators who are probing whether the company uses its dominance of Web search to thwart competition. While Microsoft and partner Yahoo! Inc. have about a quarter of the U.S. search market and Google the rest, Google has almost 95 percent of the market in Europe, Microsoft said in a blog posting last week citing data from regulators.
The EU’s antitrust agency would be “as firm as possible in eliminating all kinds of barriers” that may prevent rivals from challenging the world’s biggest search engine, Almunia said at a competition law conference in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Almunia said he met Google’s former chief executive officer Eric Schmidt, who asked him to wrap up the probe “as soon as possible.” The EU commissioner said he would “take care” not to prolong it.
‘Lot of Effort’
“This will continue to require a lot of effort,” Almunia said, because the probe will need “a lot of information” to help regulators understand how the Web market functions.
Google is working with the commission to address any concerns, Al Verney, a spokesman for the company, said in an e- mail today. It’s also “worked hard to do the right thing by our users and our industry,” he said.
A Microsoft unit and two other rivals already lodged a complaint with the EU last year. The EU competition watchdog also took on other complaints made to three national regulators, Almunia said.
Information technology is one of several industries where regulators must be vigilant to keep competition open, Almunia said. The EU may expand probes into wholesale financial services and would look closely at pharmaceutical companies’ agreements that may delay sales of generic drugs, he said.
EU regulators are also taking “a close look at pre-trade and post-trade information” for financial markets, Almunia said, citing ongoing investigations into Standard & Poor’s and Thomson Reuters Corp.
There may be “more activity in this area in the near future,” Almunia said.
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