Google Faces Another Antitrust Probe As Canadian Agency Prepares Formal Investigation

Google is facing another competition investigation, according to the Financial Post. The Canadian Competition Bureau has informed Mountain View of its plans to launch a formal investigation of its Canadian operations. It has not yet requested any information or documents from Google but has informed the search giant of its intention to launch a probe.

The Bureau declined to comment on the scope of the investigation, noting that it is obliged by law to conduct investigations confidentially. Asked for comment on the probe, Leslie Church, Google Canada’s head of communications and public affairs, told the Post: “We will work co-operatively with the Competition Bureau to answer any questions they may have.”

The Canadian Competition Bureau administers and enforces Canada’s Competition Act, among other laws. Among the types of behaviour it investigates are abuse of a dominant position involving anti-competitive practices that “substantially lessen competition in the market, or are likely to do so”.

Google’s search engine is by far and away the dominant player in Canada. According to StatCounter data for April 2012 to 2013 Google’s share has declined over the past year but only very marginally, from more than 90% last year to just under 90% in April this year. The second largest search engine, Microsoft’s Bing, took less than 7% of the market in April 2013.

StatCounter Canada search engine marketshare

Competition investigation is well-trodden ground for Google. Mountain View has been the subject of a string of investigations for a range of business practices, including a 20-month FTC antitrust probe in the U.S. and a two-year+ European Union antitrust probe into its search and advertising operations that’s still ongoing, pushing into its third year.

The FTC probe ended with Google agreeing to make some voluntary tweaks to its search and ad business and without any fine being levied. In the European antitrust case, Google submitted proposals for changes to its practices back in April. Yesterday Reuters reported that EU antitrust regulators had extended the review period for Google’s rivals to study its proposals after complaints that competitors were not being given as much time to formulate their responses.

If Google is found to have breached EU competition rules it could face a fine of up to 10% of its global revenue.