Canadian Regulator Closes Google Probe Over Search Competition

  • Competition Bureau found evidence to support one allegation
  • Ruling is a victory for Google as it faces European inquiry

Canada’s competition regulator ended a three-year investigation into Google, during which it found evidence to support one of the allegations of unfair conduct by the search giant.

The ruling is a victory for Google, which is facing investigations and possible charges in Europe, where regulators argue the company unfairly promotes its services in search results and on phones that use its Android operating system.

The Canadian Competition Bureau said Tuesday it found evidence to support the allegation that Google had used anti-competitive clauses in certain types of advertising contracts. The company, now the main unit of Alphabet Inc., changed these terms in 2013 in response to concerns from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

“Google has agreed not to reintroduce the clauses in Canada, and has agreed not to introduce any other clauses that may have the same effect in its English-language and French-language contracts,” the bureau said in a statement. “As a result of these changes, advertisers have more flexibility to use competing advertising platforms, allowing for greater search advertising competition.”

The bureau began investigating Google in 2013. The inquiry evolved from looking at how Google favors its own services in online search results to how it preloads its own applications on devices running its Android mobile operating system. The regulator said it didn’t find evidence to support the other allegations.

“We’re pleased that the Canadian Competition Bureau has decided to end its inquiry,” Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “We work hard in a competitive landscape to create a great experience for our users and help them quickly and easily find what they need from Google.”

The bureau said it will keep watch on the investigations of Google by other regulators.
Google employs a large lobbying organization around the world to help parry the probes of regulators by arguing that it competes on a level playing field, and that its users can always move to services from other companies.

“Most consumers are choosing Google products on their own, they’re not being forced to use Google search,” said Evan Wilson, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities.