The Hits Keep Coming, As EU Levels More Antitrust Charges Against Google

EUvsGoogimgThe European Union’s antitrust commission on Thursday added two formal charges to Google’s ever-growing pile of regulatory burdens.

The first charge substantiates a previous objection claiming Google favors its own comparison shopping service in search results.

“It means consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries,” wrote European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager in an official release.

The second EU charge is around Google’s “AdSense for Search” product, in which Google acts as an intermediary by placing search ads on third-party websites. The Commission claims Google’s conditions around this service – partners must reserve premium space for Google inventory and Google must authorize competing ads – violates EU antitrust rules.

A Google spokesperson said, “We believe that our innovations and product improvements have increased choice for European consumers and promote competition.”

In a blog post last year, Amit Singhal, the former head of Google’s search and ranking team, acknowledged Google’s dominance in search, but repudiated claims of unfair practices by noting fragmentation in the search and intent market. Singhal cited competitors like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Pinterest, which aren't core search engines but have still gained share of the digital shopping intent pie.

In today’s regulatory statements, the European Commission rejected this argument because it believes that “comparison shopping services and merchant platforms [like Amazon and eBay] belong to separate markets.”

Google is also trying to beat EU antitrust allegations around its Android operating system, because smartphone and mobile providers must use Google as the default search if they preinstall Google’s mobile OS.

There’s a chance the EU’s regulatory approach might migrate to the US. The Federal Trade Commission is also probing Google’s Android OS to examine concerns over market dominance, reported The Wall Street Journal earlier this year.

But the European Commission has more incentive than its US counterparts to take strong action against Google – and it has nothing to do with nurturing European tech startups. As European commentators recently noted, landing blows against Google has become a popular political tactic, in France and Germany in particular.

 

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