|By Maureen O'Gara||
|January 14, 2013 07:00 AM EST||
Google wiggled out of antitrust charges over its core search business in the US last week but its luck may not hold in Europe where Joaquín Almunia, the head of the European Commission's antitrust unit, told the Financial Times Thursday that "We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google] are diverting traffic" to give its own vertical search services preferential treatment.
"They are monetizing this kind of business," he said, "the strong position they have in the general search market and this is not only a dominant position, I think - I fear - there is an abuse of this dominant position."
He added that he's not talking about Google's sacred algorithms but "the way they present their own services."
The paper called his remarks a "direct ultimatum to Google as talks on a pre-charge settlement enter a critical phase" and said they "offer the most detailed public explanation of Brussels' concerns and hint at the likely shape of any deal."
The EC is expecting a concessions proposal from Google this month and if it doesn't measure up Almunia said the EC will issue a statement of objections.
Google owns 90% of the European search market, a larger share than it has in the US.
Almunia also suggested that Google's deal with the Federal Trade Commission over its treatment of standards-essential patents was "more or less" the kind of solution he was seeking in similar cases.
He wants remedies no less than Google agreed to the US over it use of content from rival web sites and its restrictions on moving ad campaigns to other search engines.
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