Categories: Regulation

Google: EU Antitrust Charges Are ‘Wrong’

Google has described a European Commission’s antitrust action against it “wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics”.

Although confidential, the search giant’s 100-page response against charges made in April by the EU Competition Commission, was summarised by general counsel Kent Walker in a blog post, saying the EC’s concerns are “unfounded”.

Online shopping competition

The Commission’s case, which argues Google harms competition by systematically favouring its own shopping comparison services in search results, is seen as a test case as it seeks to protect the Internet from becoming overly dominated by a single company. The body is also examining other areas such as the copy of rivals’ content, restrictions on advertisers and the dominance of Google’s Android in the smartphone market.

In its formal response, Google argues that the Commission’s stipulation that other price-comparison services should have more visibility in Google searches amounts to a disruption of Google’s advertising model.

This “peculiar and problematic remedy” would “harm the quality and relevance our results”, Walker wrote.

He cited a Google-commissioned opinion by former President of the General Court Bo Vesterdorf which states that a remedy of the kind envisaged by the EC would only apply in cases such as electricity or gas supply, where individuals have access to only one source.

Strong competition

That doesn’t apply in this case, Walker write, “given the many ways to reach consumers on the Internet”.

As in its initial response in April, Google also highlighted the strong competition from Internet shopping companies such as Amazon and eBay as evidence that the EC’s concerns are without foundation.

“Economic data spanning more than a decade, an array of documents, and statements from complainants all confirm that product search is robustly competitive,” Walker wrote.

Google will now await the EC’s response to its evidence.

In April the Commission said its goal is to ensure EU antitrust rules are applied to all companies operating in Europe.

“In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy, at the time. “If the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.”

Three British firms, mapping company Streetmap, shopping comparison site Foundem and lobbying group ICOMP, are involved in the action, according to sources cited by Reuters. The participants haven’t been disclosed publicly.

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Matthew Broersma

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

View Comments

  • No great fan of Google, but hasn't the EU commissioners heard of Bing, Amazon, eBay or iPhones/iPads?
    Suspect this is the same level of pointless interference that gave us the hassle and pointless cookie notification and enforced choice of Browser installation in Windows.

    Think this is more about revenue from a fine and mischievous competitors - They would be better looking at some of the real problems such as Windows 10 with its enforced updates etc.

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