Europe’s antitrust chief said on Monday (30 June) he could investigate Google’s YouTube if he saw any attempt by the company to abuse its dominant position in online video searching.
The comments by European Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia came as he wraps up a separate case against Google, the world’s most popular search engine, which was triggered by complaints from Microsoft and others.
“We are receiving more complaints, for instance the way Google leverages the search engine,” Almunia told a Chatham House conference.
“YouTube for instance, it’s another kind of activity where Google can also leverage their market power in search engine, and maybe this will give way to another investigation,” he said.
Almunia said one issue was whether to extend the ongoing case against Google following new complaints or to open a separate investigation.
Last week, music trade association Impala asked European Union antitrust regulators to intervene in a row with YouTube over its paid streaming music service, saying some conditions demanded by the company were anti-competitive.
YouTube, the world’s most popular online video website, has said the proposed new service would provide new revenue for the music industry. It is aiming to launch it by the end of the summer.
In November 2010, the European Commission opened an investigation into Google’s activities in the EU market for internet search, after complaints by rivals that its dominant position was in breach of fair competition and antitrust regulations.
The Commission negotiated a “commitment decision” with Google (also called “Article 9 decision”), demanding concessions and testing those concessions in market tests and questionnaires involving rival companies. Such a deal must be confirmed by all 28 EU commissioners.
After two unsuccessful bids by Google, the Commission accepted the third proposal of concessions, thus avoiding a legal spat under the Article 7 procedure. The latter would have lasted for years and potentially lead to a fine on previous breaches of antitrust regulation. Such a fine is set at a maximum of 10% of a company’s one-year revenue on EU-based activities.