Google Shopping Competitors Demand Antitrust Rework

Dozens of Google e-commerce competitors have told the European Commission they are not seeing the benefits of a 2017 antitrust order and want the current system to be reworked under tough incoming tech-industry regulations.

The EU in 2017 fined Google 2.4 billion euros (£2bn) and ordered it to stop promoting its own shopping service over those of competitors.

In response the company introduced a dedicated advertising box at the top of search results, saying it would treat itself and competitors equally when bidding for ads in the box.

Google Central Saint Giles

‘No competition’

But competitors including the UK’s Kelkoo, France’s LeGuide Group, Sweden’s PriceRunner and Germany’s Idealo said in a letter to Commission antitrust head Margrethe Vestager that the advertising boxes “allow no competition” and had not diminished Google’s dominance of the online shopping market.

“The Commission needs to re-open space on general search results pages for the most relevant providers, by removing Google’s Shopping Units that allow no competition but lead to higher prices and less choice for consumers and an unfair transfer of profit margins from merchants and competing CSSs to Google,” they wrote, according to a Reuters report.

The term CSS refers to Comparison Shopping Services.

The companies said Google’s system breached the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which are to take effect in May of next year, and that the rules should be applied.

Digital Markets Act

“Google’s prominent embedding of Shopping Units is a prima facie infringement of the DMA’s ban on self-preferencing,” the companies wrote.

“Considering the unambiguous new legal framework, it is now time to walk the talk. The most paramount case at the heart of the calls for the DMA needs to be brought to an effective end.”

Separately, Google may face formal EU antitrust charges over its advertising business early next year, following an investigation that began in June 2021 over concerns the company had unfair advantages over competitors and advertisers.

Google dominates the online ad market and ad revenues make up about 80 percent of its revenues.

Formal adtech charges

An unnamed source told Reuters the Commission had asked third parties to delete confidential details from their submissions, thought to be a move ahead of allowing Google to access the documents before sending it a formal statement of objections.

The person said the Commission was likely to issue the charges early next year.

The EU has levied more than 8bn euros in fines on Google over the past decade.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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