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Canada's competition watchdog challenges Google's search dominance

A Google logo is seen at the entrance to the company's offices in Toronto September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
A Google logo is seen at the entrance to the company's offices in Toronto September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

By Alastair Sharp and Euan Rocha

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's Competition Bureau has filed a legal motion against Google Inc alleging that the company is abusing its dominant position in online search, joining U.S. and European anti-trust authorities in challenging the practices of the web giant.

The bureau commissioner, in a federal court filing dated December 11., is seeking an order requiring Google hand over information about its business practices, including contracts.

A spokeswoman for the Competition Bureau said the decision to seek the order was based on the fact that Google has, or is likely to have, information relevant to the bureau's probe of the company's practices.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The scope of the Canadian investigation is similar to those being conducted in the United States, European Union and elsewhere.

The bureau said it has reason to believe Google has, since at least 2005, engaged in anti-competitive behavior. That includes signing exclusive deals with mobile operating system developers, web publishers and web browser developers, and giving preference to its own services, such as Google News, over its competitors' content.

It also said Google has in the past restricted the use of data from its AdWords program to licensees.

In addition to its search engine, the web giant also owns the Android mobile operating system, handset maker Motorola and the Chrome web browser.

Google makes the vast majority of its revenue from selling advertising related to the search queries its users make. The bureau said Google likely receives around 90 percent of all online search queries in Canada.

The bureau said that in its meetings with Google, the search engine company said display and ranking of search results helps users and that transferring AdWords data was straightforward.

Google also pointed to a similar investigation from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that was terminated after Google made certain commitments, including the removal of the AdWords restrictions.

Google is currently trying to convince European antitrust regulators to wrap up a separate antitrust probe.

The bureau is seeking more information from Google and its Canadian unit, including on the contractual terms of its agreements with partners that make use of its search engine.

The filing is Court File No. T-2048-13 in the Federal Court in Ottawa.

(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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