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Home News & Events COMPETITION LAW NEWS: Digital Markets in the EU ... Learning from the Google Investigation

COMPETITION LAW NEWS: Digital Markets in the EU ... Learning from the Google Investigation

Sunday, 06 July 2014 15:22

Speaking on “Public Policies in Digital Markets: Reflections from Competition Enforcement” at the Chatham House Competition Policy Conference 2014 on June 30th, Joaquin Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy, remarked that the European Commission has been active in all the areas covered by the sessions of the conference, they being telecom, patents, energy, and financial markets.

Referring to the challenges posed by the digital economy and in particular by the rise of dominant platforms, Joaquin Almunia opined that “the most talked-about investigation we currently have in this area involves Google. Apart from the wide debate it has sparked, this investigation shows that competition law tools are flexible enough to deal with competition concerns in industries where technology advances rapidly.

He added that “after a thorough analysis, the Commission found that Google’s practices raised four competition concerns … [which have lead to certain] commitments proposed by Google to be effective in restoring competition”, they being:

Firstly, there is Google’s use of original content from other websites in its own web search services without consent. If these sites wish to opt out from allowing Google to use their content, they have no other option than being excluded completely from Google's general search service. The proposed commitments unequivocally break this link. Opt-out will be permitted without consequence on the ranking in general search.

Secondly, Google imposes exclusivity agreements on publishers – such as online newspapers – who want to use its search advertising intermediation programmes to display Google ads on their web sites. Google has agreed to remove these exclusivity requirements.

Thirdly, the company imposes contractual restrictions on the management and transferability of online search advertising campaigns from Google to other platforms. Google’s proposed commitments would remove these restrictions.

Last but not least, the Commission is concerned about Google artificially displaying its own specialised services – such as Google Shopping and Google Places – in a prominent manner to the detriment of rival services and without informing its users that such results do not result from the natural search engine.

Joaquin Almunia further opined that EU public policy should pursue two main objectives in digital industries: creating the best conditions for them to flourish in Europe and, at the same time, preventing the potential risks that powerful platforms pose for businesses, users and society at large.

Full Speech: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-14-515_en.htm