Google gets more time to answer EU charge of abusing search dominance

The European Commission grants the technology giant another two weeks to respond to allegations of using its dominance in search to advance its own services and harm rivals.

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The European Commission (EC) has given Google another two weeks to respond to allegations that it abused its dominant position in the search market.

Days before the August 17 deadline, Google was today given until August 31 to respond to respond to the EC's concerns.

The EC antitrust investigation began in 2010, and is considering whether Google took advantage of its dominant position in the search market by promoting its own products, such as shopping search, above those of competitors.

In April this year, EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: "In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules."

Her public statement coincided with the EC sending a Statement of Objections to Google, setting out its preliminary view that "the company is abusing a dominant position, in breach of EU antitrust rules, by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages in the European Economic Area (EEA)".

European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardosa said the EC had extended the time Google has to respond to this Statement of Objections in response to a request by Google.

"In line with normal practice, the Commission analysed the reasons for the request. As a result, it has granted an extension allowing Google to fully exercise its rights of defence," he said.

"Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation, and we will carefully consider Google's response before taking any decision on how to proceed."

The investigation looked likely to be drawing to a close early last year when the previous antitrust head Joaquín Almunia presented a package of measures drawn up by Google that appeared to address the Commission's concerns.

Among Google's proposed remedies were displaying links to three rivals' vertical search products in a manner comparable to its own and allowing companies to opt out of having their content included in its search products on a subdomain by subdomain basis.

However, the measures proved unpopular with complainants - Almunia described them at the time as "very, very negative", and said their response justified the EC's decision to pursue further concessions from Google.

The case is far from Google's only difficulty in Europe. The EC opened a similar antitrust investigation into the Android ecosystem in April this year.

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