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Canada’s Competition Bureau Joins List of Agencies Investigating Google

Canada’s Competition Bureau plans to open a formal antitrust investigation into Google’s business practices in Canada, the Financial Post reported Friday afternoon.

The full scope of the inquiry is not clear yet, but it seems likely that the company’s practices involving search bias will be part of the probe.  The Financial Post article elaborated on the practices that are likely to be under review:

“For many businesses, ranking high in Google’s search engine is vital to success, since appearing higher increases a site’s chances of being visited by a user, which improves traffic and revenue potential.

“While Google has maintained that its search query algorithms are neutral, some businesses contend that Google prioritizes its own services — such as Google Maps or restaurant reviews — over  those of its competitors.”

The European Commission previously identified these practices as possible abuses of dominance last year, saying that “Google displays links to its own vertical search services differently than it does for links to competitors” and that “this may result in preferential treatment compared to those of competing services, which may be hurt as a consequence.” EC Vice President Joaquín Almunia expressed his concern about Google’s search manipulation to the Financial Times in January, saying, “My conviction is [Google] are diverting traffic.”

As the European Commission itself said in late April 2013, Google’s abuses create “potential harm to consumers in terms of reduced choice, quality and innovation.”

Canada’s investigation indicates that the concern and scrutiny over the company’s search and other practices are unlikely to slow down or be resolved any time soon.