European Commission's top antitrust man keeping close eye on Google

The European Commission’s antitrust top dog Joaquin Almunia has said in a speech in London today that he’s keeping a close eye on Google and anticompetitive allegations against the company.

He said in his speech that digital is very high on the agenda for the EC and that competition is vital for the market:

“By encorcing competition, I want to ensure that no firm able to provide value, create or expand a market in whatever way is prevented from doing so through anticompetitive foreclosure. Economic growth is our priority today; more than a priority it is an imperative. We must therefore create the conditions for new economic activity to flourish.”

While he does not mention Google by name it is clear who he’s talking about. He said in his speech, “My services are currently examining some allegations of anti-competitive conduct in relation to search.” He says that his work is at an early stage, but he highlights the importance of search in a competitive online marketplace and says that he is “looking at the allegations very carefully.”

Dominance online is tough to establish, he says, with “the most important social media site” – presumably he is talking about Facebook – has close to 70 percent of the EU market share. It’s dangerous to have dominant companies in a strong position as there will be the “risk that they will use this position to foreclose other markets.” He also asks if transparency is enough to make sure there’s no unfair dominance.

He also reckons that the market for online content in Europe is a “shameful anachronism” and that rolling out content across the EU is both expensive and difficult. He thinks the fragmentation of the market as well as a lack of scale is depriving the EU of business.