Google criticised in open letter to European Commission

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A number of firms and organisations have got together to submit an open letter to the European Commission over a variety things they believe Google does unfairly.

Addressed to the EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia, the letter, supported by representatives of firms including Foundem, Expedia and TripAdvisor, placed particular emphasis on issues related to 'vertical search' and 'search neutrality' within the search engine.

In the open letter, the various individuals come together to express their main concerns. It reads: "The first point we would like to raise is that the anti-competitive impact of search manipulation far outweighs the Commission's three other areas of concern regarding Google's business practices.

"In addition to materially degrading the user experience and limiting consumer choice, Google's search manipulation practices lay waste to entire classes of competitors in every sector where Google chooses to deploy them."

The other three measures the letter refers to revolve around the Commission's concern Google was allegedly copying user reviews from rival services, the possibility Google was forcing other websites to only work with the search giant itself, and finally how easily, or not, advertising campaigns booked via Google could be transferred to other platforms in regards to search advertising.

The letter continues: "Google must be even-handed. It must hold all services, including its own, to exactly the same standards, using exactly the same crawling, indexing, ranking, display, and penalty algorithms."

Google however has always rejected claims of search bias, suggesting the firm's search algorithm is ultimately focussed on keeping the user in mind.

The search engine giant has continuously pointed out there is no obligation on the user's part to use any of Google's own services - despite the fact that in SEO terms, by ranking them top of user search results, it naturally makes them seem the best option to browsers.

Certainly, the Federal Trade Commission seemed to agree with Google. The search giant was cleared of antitrust and search bias by the US body back in January following a two-year investigation.

However, the separate case in Europe looks to be no closer to resolution, although according to Mr Almunia, the European Commission is looking to bring matters to a close sometime by the end of the August summer vacation.

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