EU, US competition regulators to meet Monday as Google probes continue

Both the U.S. and the E.U. are probing Google for unfairly penalizing rivals

The chief European and U.S. antitrust regulators will meet on Monday in Brussels, and the probes both have into Google's market domination is likely to be high on their agenda.

Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, will meet with Joaquín Almunia, European Commissioner for Competition, to discuss competition policy matters, according to a European Commission official.

Last November the Commission launched a full investigation to determine whether Google unfairly penalizes rivals. The probe came after Google was accused in 2010 of using its search engine to promote its products and reduce the visibility of competing services. The complaint was lodged by U.K. search engine Foundem and French search engine eJustice.fr, later followed by 14 others including Microsoft-owned price comparison site Ciao.

In October, Google proposed settling the European antitrust case by labelling search results returned from its maps, stock quotes or other in-house services. But many of the company's rivals said that was not sufficient to let Google off the antitrust hook.

Because the investigation into Google is still ongoing, the Commission said it could not comment on the matter.

The FTC began investigating Google for antitrust violations in its search and advertising businesses in mid-2011. The agency reportedly has looked into Google's relationship with Android handset makers and whether Google favors its own services in search results.

In December, U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, asked the FTC to look into whether Google listed its products and services first in search results.

Google competitors, including Microsoft, Oracle and other members of the FairSearch.org coalition, have accused Google of search "discrimination" by manipulating search results. Google has also used its dominance to force competitors out of the search marketplace, the group has said.

The FTC did not respond to a request for comment.

Google has said little on both antitrust probes. Asked about the upcoming discussions between the FTC and the European Commission a Google spokesman said: "We continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission and European Commission and are happy to answer any questions they may have."

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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Loek Essers and Grant Gross

IDG News Service
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