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Google Could Face Court Over Antitrust Issues

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It was revealed on Friday that Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has been made a target by Europe's antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia, who has given the company until July 2 to make changes to its search results and advertising rules.

For some time, GOOG has been raising eyebrows due to its dominance in the search engine field, despite ongoing efforts by Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing. In Europe, Google has 90% of the searches, and Almunia feels that this dominance is harming competition.

Of course, he's right. Google has grown to such a degree that people now refer to an internet search as a Google search, regardless of whether they intend to use the product or not. In other words, like Coke (NYSE: KO), the name of the company is synonymous with the product. Consider that market cornered.

And the Europeans are not the only people annoyed by Google's monopoly, as Asia and also the U.S. are investigating the need for government regulation. Obviously, Google does not want that at all.

In a statement, Google said that "We operate in over 100 countries around the world, and the Internet is disruptive by its nature. It's understandable that our business should attract scrutiny and sometimes complaints in a few of those countries. We're always happy to answer questions authorities may have about our business."

Google feels that it is being completely transparent and simply offering a superior product, and being punished for that. However, if Almunia has his way then GOOG's opinions will be irrelevant. The company will likely have to change its search results so that, in some cases, it gives rivals top billing.

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt says that Almunia's concerns center on the format of the company's vertical searches, specifically specialist searches related to shopping, travel and news.

"He's encouraging us to have a conversation, and we completely agree. We disagree that we are in violation in general," Schmidt said.

There seems to be a general opinion that Google controls people's general view of the internet, and there is some truth in that. But at what point does a company have to change its successful product in order to play fair with rivals? It would seem that Google and Almunia are raising bigger issues here.

On Friday, Google is trading at $580.86, down $7.37, or 1.25%.

Follow me @BCallwood.

Posted-In: News Financing Legal Global Tech


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