Report: EU Antitrust Unit Exploring Broader Local Search Complaint Against Google

The European Commission has been asking local search competitors in Europe whether the changes in Google’s algorithm, as well as their other practices, are hurting them, according to a questionnaire seen by Reuters.

If the answer is “yes,” then that means that the EC could end up bringing a fourth antitrust against Google.  Two of the three current cases have yielded almost $8 billion in fines against the company.  The other one, which involves AdSense agreements, is currently pending.

The EC sent questionnaires to unnamed Google competitors in local search last month asking about the period from 2012 to 2017 with a focus on travel, hotels and restaurants, according to Reuters.  Reportedly, it is asking about algorithm changes and the local One Box and whether they’ve had an adverse impact on rivals’ businesses.  It seems that the EC has even asked if Google is using any of their content, such as reviews, in the One Box.

among Google’s fiercest critics in the U.S. and Europe have been TripAdvisor and Yelp. Yelp asked the EC to bring a new antitrust case in local generally against Google earlier this year.

Some o the original antitrust investigation into Google in Europe included local search, maps and travel, but the scope of the official statement of objections was reduced to cover just shopping search filed in 2015.  The EC, at the time, stated explicitly that it was reserving the right to pursue charges related to “the alleged more favorable treatment of other specialized search services” at some later point.

the EC fined Google for alleged abuse of market position in shopping search in June of 2017.  the decision was appealed by Google, but the EC and Google have been sparring since then as Google has tried making changes in search results that afford “equal treatment” to shopping engine competitors.

Even now, European comparison engines have continued complaining that Google’s reforms are not working for them.  Recently, the EC said that it believes the reforms were actually working.

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