By Jonathan Davies
The EU has filed a complaint against Google over its 'anti-competitive behaviour', claiming it 'abused' its dominance over the search market.
The EU's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said that Google's promotion of its own products in search results amounted to abuse.
An investigation will also be launched into Google's Android mobile operating system, Ms Vestager said.
In a press conference, the commissioner said: "I'm concerned that Google has artificially boosted its presence in the comparison shopping market with the result that consumers may not necessarily see what's most relevant for them, or that competitors may not get the the commercial opportunity that their innovative services deserve."
The search giant dominates the market in the EU, with 90% of all searches online. But Microsoft - which operates Bing, Tripadvisor, Streetmap made the anti-competitive accusations in 2010, and the EU has been investigating ever since.
Google said the "respectfully" but "strongly" disagreed with the announcement. Its search boss Amit Singhal wrote on the company's blog: "While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways - and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark.
"It's clear that: (a) there's a ton of competition - including from Amazon and eBay, two of the biggest shopping sites in the world and (b) Google's shopping results have not the harmed the competition.
"Any economist would say that you typically do not see a ton of innovation, new entrants or investment in sectors where competition is stagnating - or dominated by one player. Yet that is exactly what's happening in our world."
Google last year agreed to change the way it displays some of its search results, but they were deemed insufficient.
Allie Renison, Head of EU and Trade Policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “The European Commission should take care to ensure that its investigation focuses on substantive breaches of EU competition law and not be dragged into a politically motivated protectionist battle with the US.
“While we applaud the EU’s robust approach to enforcing competition in the Single Market, it is important that EU institutions resist kneejerk reactions to the complaints of individual member states. The risk is that such a move could in fact be disadvantageous to the whole of Europe in relation to the generation of much-needed inward investment into the growing digital sectors.
“Consumer preferences and the quality of a company’s products and services are what drive demand, and it is essential that the investigation’s approach remains free from any external political influences.”