Canada's competition agency takes Google to court in antitrust investigation

The company has again come under fire for its search and advertising business practises

The Canadian Commissioner of Competition believes Google has abused its dominant search position and in an ongoing investigation has filed a document with the Federal Court of Canada demanding more information on the company's practices.

Based on a preliminary investigation that started in May, the Commissioner believes the way Google operates its search engine and advertising platforms, as well as certain terms and conditions of its agreements with third parties, amount to abuses of a dominant position under the Canadian competition act, according to the Thursday filing.

The court filing lists a number of suspected anticompetitive behaviors, including entering into exclusive or default search agreements with websites, software and hardware vendors; favoring its own services in search results; and restrictions on the use of the AdWords advertising platform.

Despite changes made to the AdWords terms and conditions when Google settled a similar case with the U.S. FTC (Federal Trade Commission), the Commissioner continues to be concerned about how Google takes advantage of the AdWords API, the filing said.

To help with the investigation, the Commissioner now wants more information from Google in all these areas. Google and the Canadian Competition Bureau didn't immediately answer questions regarding these latest developments.

But the move by Canada's Competition Bureau, which is an independent law enforcement agency, to go ahead with an inquiry into Google's various practices shouldn't come as a surprise. Google's settlement with the FTC in January was at the time seen as a victory for the search giant. For example, the FTC said it wasn't going to pursue allegations that Google showed bias in its search results.

Google is currently also involved in an antitrust case in Europe. In an effort to avoid a fine in that case, Google has suggested labelling links to its own sites in search results and including links to three rival search engines for specialist search results.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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