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Google Faces New Anti-Competition Inquiry in US

For some time now the issue of net neutrality has been a thorn in Google’s side. Back in February Google was pulled up by the European Commission over allegations that Google used it’s algorithm for its own benefit to reduce the search engine result success of what it considered competitors. Now Google has problems to contend with once again as they face a new US competition enquiry.

For the first time US regulators have pulled up Google for a review of its potentially anti-competitive nature. Anti-competitive legislation is a long-standing process for governments and national/international commissions in ensuring that the most successful businesses do not use negative or immoral tactics to stifle their markets competition. This extends from chewing gum to broadcasting channels, and Google’s market leading search engine is no exception.

With a search engine market share in the region of 80%, Google certainly has the capability to stifle the success of businesses through its SERP’s and advertising streams.

This is in-part why the issue has been raised by several companies including Microsoft, but more importantly also by three companies which took exception to the results which Google turned out for their websites. Of the three firms – myTrigger, SourceTool/TradeComet and Foundem – two are US based so it is surprising that only now is the issue being brought to light.

On Friday, Google announced the proceedings via their Public Policy Blog with Google Deputy General Counsel, Don Harrison stating:

“The important thing to remember is that we built Google to provide the most useful, relevant search results and ads for users. In other words, our focus is on users, not websites. Given that not every website can be at the top of the results, or even appear on the first page of our results, it's unsurprising that some less relevant, lower-quality websites will be unhappy with their ranking.”

Google are building quite a portfolio over issues with net neutrality, legitimate business practices with the previous European hearing and problems with the FCC over their joint vision with Verison of future net neutrality.

However, in contrast with other anti-competition cases Google’s is fairly unique. The nature and required secrecy of their algorithm makes it very difficult for them to share the details of how they rank firms without sacrificing the integrity of their results. In the short term it is unlikely that anything will be decided, but what is likely is that such legal proceedings – frivolous or justified – will continue to reoccur.

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