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BRUSSELS, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Alphabet unit Google could face more regulatory heat in Europe after 23 online job search websites urged EU antitrust regulators to act against the company for allegedly using its market power to favour its job search unit.
In a letter to be sent to European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Tuesday and seen by Reuters, the companies said they have lost market share since Google launched its Google for Jobs service in Europe last year.
Vestager has been looking into Google's jobs search and local search functions since 2018. The criticism from the companies, which include British site BestJobsOnline to German peers Intermedia and Jobindex, could strengthen her hand.
The stakes are high for Google, which has been hit with 8.25 billion euros ($9.25 billion) in EU fines in the last two years for thwarting rivals. The jobs site could also provide another lucrative revenue stream if it is opened up to advertising.
"Having launched its online recruitment service in Germany in May 2019, as in other EU countries (Spain, France and the UK), Google for Jobs instantly became market leader in visibility," the companies wrote in the letter.
They said Google was acting as more than just an online recruitment service.
"Google also directly offers its services to recruiters and thus fulfils the typical functions of a job board. In doing so, Google is attempting to circumvent and ultimately serve as a substitute for other job boards," the companies said.
"In fact, behind our backs, Google's sales teams are already actively and directly approaching our customers and sourcing recruiters as key clients."
Asked to comment on general complaints from online job search rivals, Google said it had made a number of changes to address feedback in Europe.
"These include testing a new choice carousel at the top of the unit, which links directly to job sites, and linking directly to job offers when they only exist on a single site. Job seekers can decide which result or experience is most relevant for them," a spokeswoman said.
The companies said in the letter the European Commission should consider issuing an interim measure ordering Google to stop its anti-competitive activity while the watchdog investigates the matter.
They dismissed a proposed rival links carousel from Google which would show competing links in succession, designed by the U.S. firm to allay competition concerns. The companies said it does not contain details relevant to a search query.
"It is apparent that such meaningless links cannot, by their very nature, ensure equal treatment of online recruitment services on Googles general search results pages," they said.
German publisher Axel Springer's jobs portal and another German rival have filed complaints with Vestager. The signatories to the letter could follow suit if the EU does not take any action, a person close to the matter said.
($1 = 0.8917 euros) (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Jan Harvey)