Google faces probe over bias against rival firms

Steve Dinneen
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Google is being investigated by the European Commission over allegations it manipulates its search results to hinder opponents.

It is claimed rival companies’ websites are demoted to the lower leagues of the world’s biggest search engine, meaning they receive far fewer hits. Google revealed complaints have been made to the Commission regarding its practices by price comparison site Foundem, French legal search engine eJustice and Microsoft owned Ciao.

Questionnaires have been sent to the parties to gauge whether Google has a further case to answer. The move will worry Google after punitive action was taken over anti-competitive behaviour by Microsoft and Intel.

An spokesman for the Commission said: “I can confirm that the Commission has received three complaints against Google which it is examining. The Commission has not opened a formal investigation for the time being.”

Google controls 80 per cent of internet searches in Europe and 65 per cent in the US. The news comes after Vodafone boss Vittorio Colao called for an investigation into Google’s dominance in mobile advertising.

NEWS of the European Commission investigation coincided with the conviction of three Google executives.

A Milan court convicted them for the 2006 transmission of a video showing the bullying of a youth with Down's syndrome. The three were sentenced to six months in jail after being convicted of invasion of privacy, the judge said. A fourth executive was found not guilty.

The case stems from an incident in 2006 when students at an Italian school filmed and then uploaded a clip to Google Video showing them bullying a schoolmate with Down's syndrome. The complaint was brought by the boy's father. Google had argued that it removed the video immediately after being notified and cooperated with Italian authorities to help identify the bullies.