EU Launches Probe Into Google

Antitrust regulators from the European Union announced Tuesday that they have launched an investigation into Google after allegations of discriminating against competing services in its search results and for preventing websites from accepting rival ads.

The investigators will look into Google’s AdSense contracts to see if they prevent publishers from placing competing ads on their sites and will also investigate claims that the search giant limits advertisers’ ability to move data such as search key words from AdWords to other services.

Rivals of Google, including Microsoft’s Ciao, have filed an antitrust suit against the company, and criticism of Google’s practices has come in from French, German, and British data protection regulators over Google’s Street View service, which collects data from private residences.

Antitrust regulators have the authority to levy fines of up to 10 percent of revenues for monopoly abuses. He highest fine levied in the European Union’s history was $1.38 billion, against Intel last year. Advertising accounted for $22.9 billion, or 97 percent of Google’s revenue in 2009. The company has denied the allegations.

Shares of Google fell $18.66, or 3.2 percent, on the news, to $563.45 as of 10:00 AM on the Nasdaq stock exchange.