The European Union has formally filed antitrust charges against Google, alleging that the search company “infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers.” Google, of course, has denied that this is so.
According a press release published on Wednesday, the EU’s accusations are hinged on the fact that Google uses its dominance as a search engine to skew search results towards its own products and shopping options:
“The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to Google alleging the company has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages. The Commission’s preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers.”
Meanwhile, Google has published a press release of its own, posted on the Official Google Blog, which offers up data it says proves that Google’s retail performance in Europe hasn’t been as good as the completion—proving that the EU’s accusations don’t hold water, since its competition hasn’t, in fact, been stifled:
“Companies like Axel Springer, Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Yelp (all vociferous complainants in this process) have alleged that Google’s practice of including our specialized results (Flight Search, Maps, Local results, etc.) in search has significantly harmed their businesses. But their traffic, revenues and profits (as well as the pitch they make to investors) tell a very different story.
[…]Indeed if you look at shopping—an area where we have seen a lot of complaints and where the European Commission has focused in its Statement of Objections—it’s clear that (a) there’s a ton of competition (including from Amazon and eBay, two of the biggest shopping sites in the world) and (b) Google’s shopping results have not the harmed the competition.”
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. As a non-lawyer, tech-website writer, it seems likely to me that Google might wind up winning the day—but that’s obviously a pretty uninformed position I’m taking.
My main thought here, though, is that Microsoft faced antitrust probes years ago, in that it used its dominance as the de facto operating system in computers to push its software, while pushing other software out. Google, however, seems like a different kind of animal, in a different scenario. There are other search options—way more than there were operating system options in the days when Windows was the king. Microsoft itself has Bing, while there’s still Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo, among others.
In short, I have a hard time believing that even if Google does stack the deck in its own favor on its search engine that people who want a good deal can’t find it—even with Google itself.
But what do I know? Google will have its day in court, and we’ll all watch and learn.