Google is under investigation by Europe's governing body about possible antitrust violations, including abusive acts against companies like Foundem.
Europe continues to set a strict standard of antitrust compliance

The last time Microsoft was investigated by the European Union it was fined $1.4B USD.  When Intel was investigated by the EU it was fined $1.45B USD.  Now the EU's European Commission, which monitors the markets in member states for abuse, has launched a formal investigation into another American tech superpower -- Google. 

In a formal statement an EC official is quoted as saying, "The (European) Commission will investigate whether Google has abused a dominant market position in online search by allegedly lowering the ranking of unpaid search results of competing services."

The investigation comes after claims that Google added special code to its search engine to demote competitors British price comparison site Foundem and French legal search engine  Another complaint was also filed by Ciao, a Bing-powered price-comparison site from Microsoft.  Ciao claimed that Google's standard terms and conditions were abusive.

Those complaints led to a probe, which in turn led to the current investigation.

In addition to investigating these claims, the EC says it will look into whether Google pressured software and hardware partners to dump competitors' search engines.  It will also examine whether Google is forcing websites not to air ads from its competitors, if they want to use Google's ad services.  It also is going to poking around in Google's advertising data to see if the format is too non-portable, making it hard to transfer advertising info to competitors.

From an American perspective some of these charges seem a bit out there, while others seem to make sense.  Even companies in a dominant position shouldn't be forced to advertise for their competitors, so concerns about Google excluded them from page results seem tenuous.  Likewise, there's no real reason Google should have to design its ad data in such a way it can be given to others -- that just doesn't make sense.

However, the remainder of the complaints are more troublesome.  If Google truly did coerce partners into dumping Bing and other competitors, or if it pressured advertisers into exclusivity that would seemingly mark a clear abuse of its dominant position.

So is Google an abusive monopoly, or an innocent victim of an overzealous regulatory system?  That remains to be seen, but if past EU investigations are any indication, formal charges, and fines will soon follow.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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