European Commission Launches New Google Data Probe

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Commission taking a new look into Google’s collection and use of data in wake of multiple antitrust decisions and 8 billion euros in fines

The European Commission has confirmed it is investigating Google’s collection and use of data, suggesting the EU has further regulatory action in store for the search and advertising giant.

“The Commission has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google’s practices relating to Google’s collection and use of data,” the Commission said in a statement.  “The preliminary investigation is ongoing.”

The Commission has levied more than 8 billion euros (£6.84bn) in fines on Google in recent years and has ordered it to change its business practices.

But competitors in the price comparison shopping services market last week alleged that Google was continuing its anti-competitive practices and urged EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager to take action.

Margrethe Vestager, google
EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.  European Commission

Data collection

The Commission’s preliminary probe is not limited to shopping services, however.

It broadly covers data related to markets including local search services, online advertising, online ad targeting services, login services and web browsers, Reuters reported over the weekend, citing an unidentified document.

Google says it uses data to improve its services and that users can manage, delete and transfer their data at any time.

Last week some 40 European shopping services in 21 countries, including Axel Springer’s Idealo, Poland’s Ceneo, the UK’s Kelkoo and the Czech Republic’s Foundem and Heureka, sent a joint letter to Vestager alleging ongoing abuses by Google.

Since a 2017 order by the Commission, Google has brought in competitive bidding on ads at the top of search listings, but competitors said this had not increased traffic to their sites.

Shopping complaint

The complaint relates to a 2017 decision that Google had unlawfully favoured its own price comparison services over those of competitors, which was accompanied by a 2.4 billion euro penalty.

“We are approaching you (Vestager) because companies like ours are endangered by Google, which is artfully avoiding compliance with the law,” the companies said in their letter.

Google said its measures had proved effective and were sending traffic to third-party merchants.

“Over 28,000 merchants in Europe are currently placing shopping ads through these third-party Comparison Shopping Services, leading to more choice for merchants and consumers,” the company said.

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