From Archie to Google:Search engine providers and emergent challenges in relation to EU competition law

Aysem Diker Vanberg

Abstract


Search engines are crucial for locating and accessing the vast amount of digital content.  Hence they are subject to close scrutiny by the media, governments and scholars. On November 30, 2010, the European Commission opened an antitrust investigation into allegations that Google Inc. has abused a dominant position in online search in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 102 TFEU). The investigation sparked an ongoing debate in relation to the potential for anti-competitive conduct by search engines, in particular the potential for abuse of dominance.

Through an analysis of the history and development of the search industry, search engine business models and the characteristics of the online search market, this paper investigates whether the characteristics of the free internet search and search advertising market may encourage anti competitive behaviour. Furthermore, the Article briefly  analyses whether the European competition framework, in particular Article 102 TFEU, is well equipped to deal with challenges in relation to search.

The paper advocates that due to the commercialisation of search coupled with innovative business models that change persistently, there is a growing potential for search engines to engage in anticompetitive practice. Hence, there is a vital need to reassess current EU competition law and policy.


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