Getty Images takes Google grievance to EU antitrust regulators

google_tibet.jpg [Paolo Massa/Flickr]

Getty Images has become the latest company to take its grievances with Google to EU antitrust regulators, as it accused the search engine giant of favouring its own images service at the expense of rivals.

The complaint comes as the European Commission waits for Google to respond to charges of abusing its market power in a dozen EU countries since 2007 by distorting search results to favour its shopping service.

>> Read: Google search competition case may not be over

The renown photo archive said its troubles with Google started in early 2013.

“Web search results that link directly to the Getty Images website are placed low in the search results, frequently, and remarkably, not on the first page of results,” the company said on its website.

“This means Google is benefiting from the use of Getty Images content, used to generate results within Google Image Search, without sending the image searchers to the Getty Images website or other competing image search engines.”

Google spokesman Al Verney declined to comment.

Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said Getty has been granted interested third party status, allowing the company to ask for a summary of antitrust charges against the Google.

The 19 critics, acknowledged as complainants by the EU enforcer, in contrast get a non-confidential, more detailed copy of the document.

CEPIC, a European association of picture industries and photo libraries, has also complained about Google diverting traffic from its members’ sites to its own services.

Google can be fined up to 10 percent of its revenues, or as much as $6.6 billion, if found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by William Hardy)

Despite cross-border limitations, e-commerce is slowly picking up in Europe and is expected to reach a total volume of over €260 billion by 2015, from €159 billion in 2011.

An increasing share of this activity passes now through online search, which is for many users the main gateway to the Internet and therefore to e-commerce.

Inevitably, this situation poses questions on the dominant role played by Google, which is by far the most important search engine in Europe and in the world. According to some estimates, Google controls 94% of online search in Europe.

The expansion of Google from online search to related areas such as bookings for hotel, travel or restaurants, has raised concerns and pushed the European Commission to start an antitrust investigation in November 2010 over a possible abuse of Google’s dominant position.

>> Read: Consumers join battle against Google in search case

In March this year, the Commission launched a year-long competition investigation into e-commerce to help remove barriers to cross-border trade in the 28-nation bloc. It said the inquiry was not targeted at U.S. companies which are major players in e-commerce.

>> Read: EU antitrust regulators to investigate e-commerce

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