The European Commission is probing whether Google has done enough to resolve concerns that led to a €2.42-billion antitrust sanction in June, sending rival sites a list of questions to see if they benefited from the search giant’s remedies.
The questionnaire, obtained by POLITICO, is the clearest indication yet that Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s competition boss, may force Google to overhaul its remedy.
For each day the search giant is found to be non-compliant, it could be fined up to €12 million.
Vestager sanctioned Google in June 2016, ordering it to stop giving its Google Shopping service preferential treatment on its search results page. Google has appealed.
The Commission found that Google had placed Google Shopping in a box at the top of the page while demoting rival product comparison sites like Foundem or Kelkoo. In response, Google said it would allow rival websites to bid to place ads in the box.
However, many rivals have criticized that solution.
With its list of 36 questions, the Commission is seeking detailed information from comparison websites about their dealings with Google when trying to place ads in the box, and their relationships with merchants that sell the advertised products.
The Commission wants copies of agreements between price comparison websites and their five largest merchants in each country where they operate, as well as detailed information on pricing.
It also wants to know how much feedback Google provides when rejecting bids to place ads, and how much data it shares about the performance of ads that are displayed.
Additionally, investigators are asking about the relationship between Google, which runs the box, and its Google Shopping comparison service, which competes with rivals to place ads in the box.
“If you believe or have any information to suggest that [Google Shopping] may have any advantages over you … please explain,” the questionnaire states.
The questionnaire does not ask about demotions.
Google submitted a report on the remedy last month. The Commission has hired outside consultants to monitor the remedy.
The Commission had no comment.