EU competition commissioner hints at YouTube investigation after completing Google study

European Commissioner Almunia may continue to investigate Google and its YouTube division on alleged anti-competitive behaviour

The European competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia has suggested that when he completes his antitrust investigation into Google, he might follow it with a YouTube study.

The Google investigation has been going on since 2011, with the EC rejecting multiple proposals for search concessions from Google.

In a speech at Chatham House in London, Almunia said he was aware of criticisms of a mooted YouTube policy on independent music and other issues, and could turn his attention to them at a later date.

“In general [the complainants] make three broad allegations,” he said. “The use of Google’s dominant position in search to push other services – eg Google+ and YouTube – and foreclose competitors; Google’s terms and conditions for AdWords, its auction-based offering of advertising space, and AdSense, its offering of advertising services on publishers’ webpages; the use by Google of images from third-party websites.”

Almunia said that ‘preliminary’ studies are taking place, but could not confirm an actual start. The commissioner added that the EC and its investigators would be watching Google in the future.

“We don’t want to waste the Commission’s resources on complaints that are not related to antitrust or are used as tools in commercial disputes,” he said. “At present, we are conducting preliminary analyses and these will allow us to decide whether we will have to open new proceedings. Expert staff will look into these and possibly future allegations for quite some time. Google’s compliance with EU competition law will be closely monitored.”

V3 has asked Google for a response, but it had not replied by the time of publication. The firm could face any number of investigations, and Almunia said that it may be best to work on each complaint independently.

“The current investigation is probably drawing to an end,” he added. “But I suspect this case is only the beginning of further EU antitrust enforcement in the digital economy.”

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