The European Commission said today that it has launched an in-depth investigation against Google over allegations that the search engine has abused it position as a search leader, specifically that it has tampered with the ranking of Web sites for competitive reasons.
The commission, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, was quick to note that the launch of an investigation "does not imply that the commission has proof of any infringements. It only signifies that the commission will conduct an in-depth investigation." From the WSJ report:
The commission said it will investigate whether Google lowered the page placement of unpaid results of services with which it competes, such as price comparison or specialized search, and placed its own services higher to shut out competition. The commission also will investigate allegations that Google lowered its Quality Score for so-called sponsored, or paid, links of competing search services.
Google said it would cooperate with officials but also noted that "We built Google for users, not websites, and the nature of ranking is that some websites will be unhappy with where they rank." The company said that, despite complaints and even lawsuits over it, there are "compelling reasons" why sites rank poorly by Google's algorithms.
So, now what? Well, now it's just a waiting game to see what the EU finds. There is no deadline for the commission to complete its investigation and previous investigations like that have taken years to conclude.
An EU spokeswoman told reporters today not to expect any updates for months.
On the company's public policy blog, Google SVP Susan Wojcicki offers some thoughts on the investigation. She writes, in part:
...given our success and the disruptive nature of our business, it’s entirely understandable that we’ve caused unease among other companies and caught the attention of regulators. Today, the European Commission has announced that they will continue to review complaints about Google's search and search advertising. We respect their process and will continue to work closely with the Commission to answer their questions.