The European Commission has launched an anti-trust probe into Google, following complaints that it is abusing its dominance of the search market.
The Commission will probe allegations Google lowered the quality score for sponsored links of competing vertical search services; imposed exclusivity obligations on advertising partners, preventing them placing competing ads on their web sites; and blocked computer and software firms to lock-out rival search engines.
It will also investigate whether Google restricted the flow of data regarding online ad campaigns to rival platforms.
Rival firms including Microsoft subsidiary Ciao, UK price comparison firm Foundem and French legal site justice.fr triggered the investigation, claiming Google downgrades their names in search results in favor of its own services, The Guardian reported.
If found guilty, Google could be fined up to 10% of its revenue - $2.4 billion (€1.8 billion) based on 2009 figures - and face heavy restrictions on the way it presents results, the newspaper said.
Susan Wojcicki, Google’s SVP of product management, and Udi Manber, VP of engineering, said the probes are only to be expected “given our success and the disruptive nature of our business.”
They pledged to work closely with the EC to answer its questions, but pointed out that not every website can come out on top of its search results
“We built Google for users, not websites,” the duo state, adding that the firm has always been transparent when it comes to paid-for results. “We provide more information about how our ranking works than any other major search engine.”
The commission pursued Microsoft for more than a decade over its dominance of the browser market, imposing $2.4 billion in fines on the software firm during that period.
Google’s Nasdaq stock fell 4.54% and a further 0.23% in after-hours trading to $554.45.