By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Google faces an antitrust complaint on Monday by Danish online job-search rival Jobindex, which told European Union regulators the Alphabet-owned business had allegedly unfairly favoured its own job-search service.
The complaint could reinvigorate EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager's scrutiny of the service, Google for Jobs. Three years ago, Vestager said she was looking into the issue but she has yet to take any action.
The European Commission said it would assess the complaint according to the standard procedures. Jobindex's action comes four years after German media group Axel Springer's jobs portal Stepstone filed a similar complaint against Google.
Google, which has been fined more than 8 billion euros ($8.4 billion) by Vestager in recent years for various anti-competitive practices, says it partners with job providers to direct people to websites with job listings relevant to them.
"Any jobs provider, big or small, is able to take part and companies are seeing increased traffic and job matches as a result of this feature," a Google spokesperson said.
Launched in Europe in 2018, Google for Jobs triggered criticism from 23 online job-search websites in 2019. They said they had lost market share after the online search giant had allegedly used its market power to push its new service.
Big technology companies use their market dominance to push their own products, getting an unfair advantage over smaller European rivals and spurring antitrust complaints.
Google's service links to postings aggregated from many employers, allowing candidates to filter, save and get alerts about openings, though they must go elsewhere to apply. Google places a large widget for the tool at the top of results for ordinary web searches.
SKEWING THE MARKET
Jobindex, one of the 23 critics three years ago, said Google had skewed what had been a highly competitive Danish market towards itself via anticompetitive means.
Founder and CEO Kaare Danielsen said Jobindex had built up the largest jobs database in Denmark by the time Google for Jobs entered the local market last year.
"Nevertheless, in the short time following the introduction of Google for Jobs in Denmark, Jobindex lost 20% of search traffic to Google's inferior service," Danielsen told Reuters.
"By putting its own inferior service at the top of results pages, Google in effect hides some of the most relevant job offerings from job seekers. Recruiters in turn may no longer reach all job seekers, unless they use Google's job service," he said.
"This does not just stifle competition amongst recruitment services but directly impairs labour markets, which are central to any economy," Danielsen said.
He urged the Commission to order Google to stop the alleged anti-competitive practices, fine the company and impose periodic payments to ensure compliance.
Jobindex said it had seen examples of free-riding, with some of its own job ads copied without its permission and marketed through Google for Jobs on behalf of Jobindex's business partners. It also cited privacy risks to job applicants and its clients.
Jobindex's complaint could gather momentum among peers, much like UK price comparison website Foundem, whose complaint against Google spurred scores of rivals to come forward and triggered a decade-long investigation which ended with a hefty fine for Google.
Google has been sued several times for a range of issues from pushing mobile phone makers to favour its own apps to distorting internet search results to favour its shopping service.
In February, Swedish price comparison firm PriceRunner sued Google for about 2.1 billion euros, saying nothing had changed even after Google was fined 2.42 billion euros in 2017 for favouring its own price comparison shopping service.
($1 = 0.9475 euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; editing by Mark Potter and Bernadette Baum)