Google seeking to promote rivals to stave off EU antitrust action

FILE PHOTO: An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google is trying to boost price comparison rivals such as Kelkoo in an effort to appease European Union antitrust regulators and ward off fresh fines following a 2.4-billion-euro ($2.7 billion) penalty nearly two years ago.

The European Commission said Alphabet unit Google had used its search engine market power to unfairly promote its own comparison shopping service.

The company subsequently offered to allow price-comparison rivals to bid for advertising space at the top of a search page, giving them the chance to compete on equal terms. But competitors said the measure failed to create a level playing field.

Earlier this month, Google introduced a new link on its search results which aims to drive more traffic to price comparison rivals.

British competitor Kelkoo said on its blog that it was one of several companies selected to try out the new link which will initially be available in Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Google was not immediately available for comment. European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has said that she was aware of rivals’ criticism of the company’s proposal.

EU antitrust enforcers could levy fines up to 5 percent of Google’s average daily worldwide turnover if it fails to comply with the 2017 order.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter