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Google Wins Anti-Trust Victory in Canada, Even as Noose In Europe Tightens

April 19, 2016, 5:10 PM UTC
A man holds a smartphone, with the Google Maps app open, in Sarajevo
A man holds a smartphone, with the Google Maps app open, in Sarajevo, April 15, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic - RTR4XGCE
Dado Ruvic — Reuters

Google won a significant antitrust victory on Tuesday in Canada when the country’s Competition Bureau concluded that the company doesn’t use its dominant market position to harm rivals.

The Canadian investigation focused on six discrete aspects of Google’s (GOOG) business, including how it displays search results and how it treat its own services such as “Google Maps” and “Google Flights.” In a major win for the company, the regulator found Google’s search practices are dictated by user experience and are not intended to squelch rivals:

“Although Google frequently makes changes to the algorithm it uses to rank search results, evidence obtained over the course of the investigation indicates that Google’s changes are generally made to improve user experiences,” the Competition Bureau said in a statement.

The regulator did, however, describe the manner in which Google sells its flagship AdWords search ads as “problematic,” and ordered the company to change the terms of its contracts to make it easier for clients to end ad campaigns.

In a statement, Google’s general counsel, Kent Walker, declared the company was happy with the outcome.

“We’re pleased that the Canadian Competition Bureau has decided to end its inquiry. We work hard in a competitive landscape to create a great experience for our users and help them quickly and easily find what they need from Google.”

The result of the Canadian investigation is similar to what was announced three years ago by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which largely rejected antitrust allegations against Google.

Google faces a mounting headache, however, in Europe where regulators are expected to file major antitrust charges in the next few days over the company’s practice of requiring Android hardware manufacturers to install certain Google apps.

The Canadian investigation appears to have rejected similar allegations over Android, concluding on Tuesday that Google’s distribution agreements “have not lessened competition.” The FTC is reportedly conducting its into Android.

Meanwhile, the media conglomerate News Corp (NWS) has asked the European Commission to expand the scope of its current complaint by looking into whether the company is illegally scraping or copying news content.

The recent divergence in antitrust attitudes to Google may provide more grist for critics who say European regulators are unfairly singling out U.S. tech companies.

This story was updated at 1:30pm ET to note the reported FTC investigation into Android.