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  1. BRUSSELS (Reuters) - British price comparison site Kelkoo is willing to take its complaint about Google to U.S. antitrust regulators because EU efforts to ensure a level playing field are inadequate, its chief executive said on Wednesday. Kelkoo and its peers have been at loggerheads with Alphabet unit Google for years, accusing the company of unfairly promoting its own comparison shopping service at their expense. Google, stung by a 2.4-billion-euro ($2.7 billion) EU antitrust fine two years ago, subsequently allowed competitors to bid for advertising space at the top of its search pages in a bid to boost competition and stave off additional fines. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has said the measure appeared to be working. However, Kelkoo’s CEO Richard Stables told Reuters that Kelkoo is still not able to compete on equal terms because of Google’s prominent placement of product listing ads (PLA) that favors the company rather than comparison listing ads (CLA). “She (Vestager) has got the remedy wrong. Google’s current compliance mechanism is failing the shopping market. Google is restricting visibility to users in order to continue benefiting from its PLA abuse,” Stables said in an interview with Reuters. Kelkoo has contacted U.S. antitrust enforcers in an effort to find a solution. “We spoke to the Federal Trade Commission four months ago. We are prepared to go to the Department of Justice,” Stables said. The U.S. Department of Justice is preparing a separate investigation of Google to determine whether it broke antitrust law in operating its sprawling online businesses, two sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters. The FTC previously probed Google in an investigation that ended in 2013 with the company implementing minor changes. The Commission and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Source
  2. (Reuters) - U.S. antitrust regulators have divided oversight of Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, putting Amazon under the watch of the Federal Trade Commission and Google under the Justice Department, the Washington Post said on Saturday. Amazon could face heightened antitrust scrutiny under a new agreement between U.S. regulators which puts the e-commerce giant under the watch of the trade commission, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The development is the result of the FTC and Justice department quietly dividing up competition oversight on both of the American tech giants, Amazon and Google, the newspaper said adding that the FTC’s plans for Amazon and the Justice Department’s interest in Google were not immediately clear. The news comes after Reuters and other media reported on Friday that the Justice Department is preparing an investigation into Google in order to ascertain whether the company broke antitrust law in operating its online businesses. Google said it had no comment on the report while Amazon, the FTC and Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report. Source
  3. BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators have asked Google’s rivals if the internet search giant unfairly demotes local search competitors, according to a questionnaire seen by Reuters, a move which could lead to a fourth case against the Alphabet unit. Google has been fined a total 6.76 billion euros ($7.7 billion) in the last 17 months for favoring its comparison shopping service and for using its dominant Android mobile operating system to reinforce its search engine market power. The European Commission, which took the world’s most popular internet search engine to task for these two anti-competitive practices, is wrapping up a third case which involves Google’s AdSense advertising service. The EU competition authority’s interest in local search services followed a complaint by U.S. search and advertising company Yelp (YELP.N) and rivals in the travel, restaurant and accommodation industries. It sent questionnaires to Google rivals last month, asking for details of the company’s practices and the impact on competing services between January 2012 to December 2017. Regulators also wanted to know if rivals experienced an impact in the operation of their local services as a result of major search algorithm changes by Google, including the introduction of its Panda 4.0 algorithm. Introduced in 2014, this algorithm determines what appears in Google search results. Companies were also asked if Google’s introduction of the Local Universal or One Box had a substantial impact on their local search services. Local Universal is targeted at hotel ads while One Box, which is information and images outlined in a box, is a tool for local businesses to get more visibility in Google search results. The Commission asked if Google used content from rival local search services such as reviews on Local Universal or One Box. Google had no immediate comment. Source
  4. Kaspersky Files Antitrust Complaint Against Microsoft over Windows 10 Antivirus - Updated Legal complaints filed with EU and German watchdog Kaspersky claims that Microsoft is turning to unfair tactics to force users to stick with Windows Defender, the default antivirus in Windows 10. In a blog post today, Kaspersky accuses the Redmond-based software giant of removing third-party antivirus when upgrading to Windows 10, using its dominant position to promote its own security product. “Microsoft’s antivirus is hardwired into all versions of Windows 10 for home users: it’s impossible to turn it off completely, impossible to delete. Until recently no one asked you if you needed it or not. There was a time when, even if you used a different security solution, Microsoft’s own AV all the same periodically ran scans,” Kaspersky says. Kaspersky: Other security companies must support us Microsoft is mostly doing this because its antivirus has failed to remain competitive and because third-party security products are a lot more powerful, he continues, blaming the software giant for using its position only against antivirus products because this is a market where others are leading. “Such restriction is applied only to antiviruses - with which Microsoft has been trying to compete (and not doing very well at) for years. But in previous (pre-10) versions of Windows there were no such special measures. Thus, it looks like, after years with no success (in competing with other antiviruses), Microsoft has resorted to the use of alternative, OS-empowered (in our view - underhand) tactics,” he adds. Microsoft not only removes third-party antivirus products from Windows when the upgrade is performed but the company isn’t giving vendors enough time to prepare their security software for new versions of Windows. And this is one of the reasons they are eventually blocked when the upgrade is performed, he says. Kaspersky ends his plea by calling for Microsoft to support fair and healthy competition, while also asking other security vendors to join this effort and file antitrust complaints against the software giant. “We want Microsoft to stop misleading and misinforming our - and not only our - users. We want to see all security solutions being able to work on the Windows platform on a level playing field. And we want to see users being able to decide for themselves what they want and consider important to them,” Kaspersky added. Microsoft has already released a statement, saying that it does not infringe competition rules and it’s willing to work with antitrust bodies on addressing all these claims. UPDATE: Microsoft has provided us with an updated statement, explaining that it tried to reach out to Kaspersky to discuss the said concerns, but a meeting is yet to take place. Furthermore, the firm emphasized that existing Windows 10 security features do not violate any competition rules. Source
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