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EC Imposes Anti-Trust Investigation Deadline On Google

The European Commission has warned Google that it must move swiftly to allay anti-trust allegations, or face sterner consequences.

The warning was issued by Joaquin Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy, and notes that the investigation into whether Google is abusing its dominant market position to push its advertising ahead of rivals began back in November 2010. It was triggered by several complaints, and the EC has conducted what it calls a "large-scale" investigation since.

Almunia stated that this affair, which has certainly dragged on a bit, could now benefit from a "quick resolution". He also set out the EC's four major concerns about where Google may be considered as abusing its dominant market position.

Firstly, the EC cites general search results on the web, and how Google displays links to its own vertical search services differently than the links of competitors (favouring the visibility of its own).

The second concern also relates to competing vertical search services, and the way Google copies their content to use in its own material. The third point is the agreements Google secures with the firms the search engine advertises, and the exclusivity imposed on advertisers who must then obtain all (or most) of their ad requirements from Google.

And the final point relates to contractual restrictions which prevent software developers from offering tools to allow the easy transition of search ad campaigns from AdWords to other alternative platforms.

Google is being offered the chance to remedy these issues, with a letter detailing the points having been sent to Eric Schmidt. The EC wants Google to address the four concerns within a "matter of weeks", otherwise Almunia warns that the next step would be to "pursue formal proceedings with a Statement of objections and to adopt a decision imposing fines and remedies".

So, it sounds like Google best get its skates on.

Google is also facing accusations of anti-competitive practices in the US, and possibly India as well, according to a recent rumour.