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Google faces the EU antitrust probe of job search tools



European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager holds a news conference in Brussels on April 20, 2016.

Francois Lenoir | Reuters

Google has faced a total anti-trust fine of $ 9.5 billion from the EU over the past two years.

Now another EU antitrust case is brewing – this time over the job search tool "Google for Jobs."

In a speech on Tuesday, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager drew parallels between Google for Jobs and the company's comparison service, which suffered a $ 2.7 billion fine against Google in 201

7 for anticompetitive behavior.

"We're looking right now if the same thing may have happened to other parts of Google's business – like the job search industry known as Google for Jobs," Vestager said.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission confirmed to CNBC a preliminary investigation into Google for Jobs is ongoing, but declined to comment on the timing or outcome. A preliminary investigation involves the gathering of information and may or may not lead to a formal antitrust investigation. Formal EU antitrust investigations can take years and may result in fines of up to 10% of the company's annual revenue.

The EU spokeswoman told CNBC that the Commission's 2017 antitrust decision on Google "provides us with a framework to look at other specialized search services, such as Google jobs and local search," but added each service needs to be examined individually.

At stake, Vestager calls companies that act as "both player and referee." When it comes to Google's job search tool, for example, the company can prioritize its own job listing platform in Google search results.

In a statement, a Google spokesman said: "Finding a job can be tough, so we worked with job 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 have made a number of changes to address feedback in Europe. " a letter to Vestager, urging the EU to formally investigate Google for Jobs for anti-competitive behavior. The letter, first reported by Reuters, expressed a "collective view that Google is abusing market dominance as a general search service by favoring its own online recruitment service, Google for Jobs, on its general search results pages."

Danish job search company Jobindex was one of the signatories. In an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, Jobindex CEO Kaare Danielsen said he was "very concerned" about Google's impact on local recruiting platforms.

"This is a huge competitor," he said. "They've taken market after market."

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has taken a tough stance on Google regarding antitrust. In addition to the 2017 bot, Google faced a record $ 5.1 billion charge in 2018 for abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating system. In March, the commission placed an additional $ 1.7 billion fine on Google to block competitors in the advertising industry.

Google has appealed the fine and said that products like search help provide fast, easy connections for consumers and businesses. So far, EU accusations have done little to damage the company's bottom line with shares in Google parent company Alphabet by more than 25% over the past two years.

Vestager, whose period is set to end in October, also announced a formal antitrust investigation by Amazon in July for its "dual role" as both a merchant and marketplace.

The US Justice Department is currently conducting its own antitrust review of "market-leading online platforms" such as Google, Amazon and Facebook and whether they have reduced competition and harmed consumers.

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