The EU accuses Google of cheating competitors and online shoppers by distorting search results to favour its own shopping service, and launches another antitrust investigation into its Android mobile operating system. Ivor Bennett reports.
It's become virtually indispensable. So dominant, it's now even a verb. But does Googling always give the most relevant results? It's a question the EU has been investigating for 5 years. And finally thinks it has an answer. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager accusing the search giant of being anti-competitive. And charging it over its response to shopping searches. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EU COMPETITION COMMISSIONER, MARGRETHE VESTAGER, SAYING: "Our preliminary view in the statement of objection is that in its general internet search result, Google artificially favours its own comparison shopping service and this constitutes an abuse." The EU says this was happening on a systematic basis Regardless of whether it is indeed the most relevant result. SOUNDBITE (English) IVOR BENNETT, REUTERS REPORTER, SAYING: "This may of course be a random result - other searches possibly yielding different results. Say I want to buy a smartphone, I type in the query here, and up pops, at the top of the list, Google's own shopping comparison site. But, buried in the small print here, it says Google may be compensated by providers if a purchase is made. The products that are actually listed here is another issue altogether, but at the top of this list are all Samsung phones, which use Google's Android operating system while Apple's iphone is much further down." Android is in fact another bone of contention. Like the search tool, it's become THE dominant force of its field. The EU launching a separate probe into whether that position is being abused. Brussels has the power to fine firms up to 10 percent of their annual sales. For Google, that means more than 6 billion dollars. But BGC's Mike Ingram says it's not the money that's the problem. SOUNDBITE (English) MIKE INGRAM, MARKET ANALYST, BGC MARKETS, SAYING: "I think it'll certainly cause them to become more transparent in terms of how they arrive at their search results. But I think there's only so far down that road that Google is likely to want to go for fear of giving its secrets away to its competition. But I don't think this is something Google can shrug off easily." There was no immediate public response from Google. But a leaked internal memo reportedly described the news as very disappointing. The US firm now has 10 weeks to respond, and can demand a hearing. If it does, a final resolution could take years.