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European Commission examining possible Google antitrust violations

[JURIST] The European Commission (EC) [official website] confirmed [press release] Wednesday that it has received three antitrust complaints against Google [corporate website] regarding the way the search engine ranks search results, but said it has not started a formal investigation. UK price comparison company Foundem [corporate website], French legal website EJustice [corporate website, in French], and consumer review website Ciao [corporate website] claim that Google impedes [Telegraph report] users' abilities to find companies' websites to prevent the companies from competing with Google and that Google binds partners to unreasonable agreements. Two of the companies have ties to Microsoft [corporate website] - Foundem is a member of a group partially funded by the computer company, while Ciao is owned by Microsoft and runs with Microsoft's search engine Bing. Google responded in a blog post [text], stating:

Though each case raises slightly different issues, the question they ultimately pose is whether Google is doing anything to choke off competition or hurt our users and partners. This is not the case. We always try to listen carefully if someone has a real concern and we work hard to put our users' interests first and to compete fair and square in the market. We believe our business practices reflect those commitments.

There was no word on whether the EC will initiate a formal investigation nor a timetable given for any possible investigations.

Google has faced numerous legal issues. Last week, a US judge heard arguments [JURIST report] on a proposed settlement over Google's book-scanning initiative [JURIST news archive]. Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a statement of interest [JURIST report] urging to court to reject the settlement due to copyright and antitrust concerns. Also in February, a privacy group filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] alleging that the new Google social networking service Buzz violates privacy laws and requesting that the FTC investigate possible unfair business practices. Last year, a European Court of Justice advisory opinion found that Google's AdWords advertising service does not violate [JURIST report] European trademark law.

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