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Got room for another probe up there, Google? Jobs sites ask EU antitrust tsar to look at how search giant ranks them

23 reckon anti-competitive behavior has hurt biz – report

Updated Several leading jobs sites have written to the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, calling for an investigation into how Google ranks their websites.

Google has its own aggregation widget that collates what it considers to be relevant job ads into a box that appears near the top of the search results.

Some 23 jobs boards have petitioned Vestager to ask Google to stop displaying its own widget so prominently while she investigates whether or not its behaviour is anti-competitive, Reuters reports.

The companies, including big players in the UK and Germany, may follow the letter with a formal complaint if action is not taken, the newswire added.

Some recruitment sites, on the other hand, have said the tool has actually helped their business. Google sets formatting requirements for sites wishing to have their adverts included on the widget. Monster Worldwide said it had reversed a recent fall in traffic by restructuring its websites to follow Google's rules.

Other recruitment sites told Reuters that the widget resulted in them getting better-matched candidates for the jobs they advertised via the app.

Google sent us the following statement: "Finding a job can be tough, so we worked with jobs providers to create a better experience on Search. Any provider – from individual employers to job listing platforms – can use this feature in Search, and many of them have seen a significant increase in the number of job applications they receive. Since launch, we've made a number of changes to address feedback in Europe.

"These changes include testing a new choice carousel at the top of the unit, which links directly to job sites and linking directly to job offers when they only exist on a single site. Job seekers can decide which result or experience is most relevant for them."

The competition commissioner is already running several formal investigations into different aspects of Google's business. The search and ads giant is still fighting a record-breaking €4.3bn fine imposed for illegally exploiting its dominance in mobile phone operating systems to favour its own search services.

It is also contesting a €1.49bn fine slapped on it for making life unnecessarily difficult for rival ad-serving platforms that threaten its huge AdSense business.

The two are also still fighting over Google's treatment of shopping comparison sites like UK's Foundem.

There is also an ongoing row with Ireland's data protection regulator, which is looking at whether Google's DoubleClick ad system is routinely breaking the EU's General Data Protection Regulation – which could cost it another €1.28bn.

Last but by no means least, Google is additionally facing a battle in the US, where a recent investigation by the Federal Trade Commission has been handed over to the Department of Justice to consider legal action.

Vestager is stepping down as competition commissioner later this year. The Danish politician has taken a jaundiced view of tech giants and their use and abuse of data to consolidate their businesses. But there is no reason for Google to suppose that the commission will soften its stance under a new leader. ®

Updated at 1457 on 14 August to add

A Commission spokesperson told The Register: "We confirm we have received the letter and we will assess it. Shopping is just one of the specialised search services that Google offers. The decision the Commission took in June 2017 gives us a framework to look also at other specialised search services, such as Google jobs and local search. "What the Commission has found is that those different specialised services have some things in common - but they also have important differences. We need to look individually at each of those services. "Our preliminary investigation is ongoing. We cannot comment on or predict its timing or outcome."

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