Competition Bureau says Google isn't anticompetitive but it used to be

Canada's Competition Bureau has finished a three-year investigation into Google and cleared the search giant of accusations it engages in anticompetitive behaviour, now that it has stopped including a certain clause in its contracts with advertisers.

The competition regulator said it had been investigating whether Google uses its dominance in search advertising unfairly by imposing conditions and demands on its customers that make it impossible for its rivals to compete with them for business

The bureau found that, in fact, the search giant used to include a clause with advertisers that made it difficult for anyone advertising with Google to obtain a similar service from someone else. "These AdWords API restrictions allegedly were making it more difficult for companies to advertise on multiple platforms," the bureau said, describing a practice known as "multi-homing," which allows advertisers to buy up the rights to be prominently displayed on the screens of people who search for a particular set of words.

But the company had stopped including the problematic clause in its terms and conditions since 2013 in the U.S. and Canada, following a competition probe by U.S. business regulator, the Federal Trade Commission.

The Canadian regulator looked into allegations that Google had unfair syndication agreements, distribution agreements and that it favoured its own services, and found all of those claims without merit.

Now that the problematic clause in ad contracts is gone, the bureau says it has no problems with the way Google does business in Canada.

Google said it was pleased that the bureau had decided to end its inquiry.

"We work hard in a competitive landscape to create a great experience for our users and help them quickly and easily find what they need from Google," said Kent Walker, senior vice-president and general counsel at Google.

Meanwhile, the bureau said it will continue to follow developments with respect to Google's ongoing conduct, including the results from other investigations around the world.

"We will continue to monitor firms in the digital economy to ensure they do not engage in anti-competitive conduct," Competition Commission John Pecman said in a statement.

"Should new evidence come to light of anti-competitive conduct that may affect the Canadian marketplace, by Google or any other market participant, I won't hesitate to take appropriate action."

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