EU antitrust commissioner to meet Google complainants

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The new EU antitrust commissioner will meet with complainants in a four-year-old antitrust case against Google to get a first-hand update and decide how to move ahead.

I found that there was a need to update the information in the case,” said Margrethe Vestager, who took over as competition commissioner on Nov. 1. The meetings follow questionnaires sent to a number of companies, she said during a news briefing in Brussels on Thursday. The questionnaires covered map and travel services, among other topics.

“To have a case that is actual and true to the time we live in, I found that it was important to get new information in the file,” Vestager said, adding that once she has met with the complainants, she will know much more about the case and can than decide how to take it forward. The meetings will take place in the coming weeks.

The investigation into Google’s search practices has been going on since the first complaints were filed with the European Commission in 2010. Companies alleged that Google favored its own services in search results while reducing the visibility of results from competing sites.

Among the complainants are vertical-market search engines like Foundem as well as German based mapping site Hot Maps and Tripadvisor and Expedia.

Google’s business practices are coming under increasing scrutiny from legislators and regulators in the EU. The European Parliament in November called on the Commission to consider unbundling search engines from other commercial services as a way of maintaining competition in the search market, a move largely seen as a call to break up Google.

On Thursday, Google announced it would shut down Google News in Spain ahead of a new law requiring every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even small news snippets from their publications.

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