Joaquin Almunia, the European Commission (EC) competition chief, made the comments in a Financial Times interview where he said he believes Google is “diverting traffic” to its own services, such as news, maps and shopping comparison, and potentially distorting consumer choice in the search market.
He says: “We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google] are diverting traffic… I think – I fear – there is an abuse of this dominant position.” His comments will be welcomed by rival search providers, such as Microsoft and Yahoo.
Google is preparing to submit proposals addressing the EC’s competition concerns by the end of this month however Almunia warned that he would be “obliged” to submit formal charges should prove unsatisfactory.
The EC began formally investigating Google’s dominance in the search market in May 2010 with the US company facing potential fines or intervention on how it displays its search returns as a result.
A Google statement responding to the comments says: “We continue to work cooperatively with the EC.”
Almunia’s comments indicate that Google could face sterner regulatory directives in Europe compared to the US where it was cleared of unfairly biasing its search results earlier this month by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
However, in the same settlement Google agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility allowing them to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on its AdWords and on rival providers’ platforms.