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Watchdog says Google dominates French online ad search market

15 декабря 2010

France's antitrust watchdog Tuesday said that Google Inc. holds a dominant position in the French Internet search advertising market, a decision that could lead to further scrutiny of the U.S.-based web giant's business practices in the country.

Following a request from the French government, the Autorite de la concurrence spent ten months examining the French online advertising market and its competitive landscape to determine whether Google was its dominant player.

In its opinion - which the competition watchdog said is the first of its kind worldwide - the Autorite said that ads which appear when people type queries into an Internet search engine form a specific market, which Google dominates.

The opinion issued on Tuesday has no legal effect and won't incur any sanctions for Google but it sends a warning sign to the company.

"We are sending a series of very precise signals to Google to warn them where they risk crossing the line and to tell them which conditions we attach to certain practices," President of the Autorite, Bruno Lasserre, said in a briefing with journalists.

Being in a dominant position in itself does not constitute a breach of law and Google's dominant position results from a high degree of innovation and investment, the watchdog said."Only the abusive exercise of such market power could be sanctioned."

The decision could, however, leave Google open to complaints related to the abuse of its position, the Autorite said. It will also be closely watched by the European Commission, which last month launched a antitrust investigation into allegations that Google abused a dominant position in online search.

In a statement later Tuesday, the European Commission said the French inquiry doesn't overlap with its own investigation into Google's business practices but noted it gives a "thorough analysis of the French online advertising market."

In France, 90% of Internet searches are made using Google, the Autorite said. The watchdog considers search advertising is a specific market as it allows advertisers to target very specific audiences and in a way that no other advertising method can. Through the use of powerful algorithms Google can make relevant ads pop up to search results on its Web site.

Google, however, challenged the watchdog's definition of the market, saying advertisers can use many different ways to make their ads visible to consumers."Advertisers can and do switch to other formats, both online and offline. That's the sign of a competitive and dynamic industry," Google said in a statement.

The Autorite did not include social networking site Facebook in its definition of the Internet search market because users do not search for products on the Web site, rather they look for information on their friends.

While the regulator stayed clear of stating whether Google had abused its market position, it highlighted a number of areas where it considers Google's market position may be problematic.

The watchdog notably raised concerns over its news service. Google's news service aggregates the best pieces from each publication without paying the news organizations which create the articles, the Autorite said. Publishers in France should be allowed to exclude their articles from Google News results without being themselves removed from the search service, the authority added.

A Google spokesman referred to a statement on the company's blog that states that all news providers to Google News can control whether they want to be found on Google services and how their content appears. A publisher has the option to continue to appear in Google web search, but not in Google News, according to the statement.

The Autorite said it is not necessary to implement a sector-wide regulation in France and that competition law should be enough to limit Google's actions.

The Autorite would, however, be ready to investigate certain areas of concern on the French market if the European Commission decides to not investigate some of these areas, Lasserre added.


Источник: Total Telecom

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