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Google Strikes Back Against Europe’s Antitrust Charges

“Improving quality isn’t anti-competitive,” Google wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

Google Strikes Back Against Europe’s Antitrust Charges
[Photo: Flickr user Leon Yaakov]

Google published a blog post on Thursday responding to the European Commission’s claims that some of its practices are anti-competitive. The commission, which acts as the executive body of the European Union, filed formal antitrust charges against Google in April 2015, alleging that its search results unfairly ranked its own shopping service over competitors.

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In a blog post titled, “Improving quality isn’t anti-competitive,” Google called the European Commission’s conclusions “wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics.” The post continued:

We’ve taken seriously the concerns in the European Commission’s Statement of Objections (SO) that our innovations are anti-competitive. The response we filed today shows why we believe those allegations are incorrect, and why we believe that Google increases choice for European consumers and offers valuable opportunities for businesses of all sizes.

The SO says that Google’s displays of paid ads from merchants (and, previously, of specialized groups of organic search results) “diverted” traffic away from shopping services. But the SO doesn’t back up that claim, doesn’t counter the significant benefits to consumers and advertisers, and doesn’t provide a clear legal theory to connect its claims with its proposed remedy.

Google said it has provided the European Commission with evidence that its shopping service does not hinder competition. According to Google, that evidence includes economic data from over a decade, along with web traffic analysis of Google display ads and search results.

“The universe of shopping services has seen an enormous increase in traffic from Google, diverse new players, new investments, and expanding consumer choice,” the blog post noted. “Google delivered more than 20 billion free clicks to aggregators over the last decade in the countries covered by the SO, with free traffic increasing by 227% (and total traffic increasing even more).”

If the European Commission finds Google guilty of anti-competitive practices, the company could face fines of up to $6.6 billion, Re/code reports.

Google is not the only U.S. tech firm under investigation in Europe. Amazon is facing antitrust charges related to its e-books business, while Facebook is under scrutiny in various European nations over user privacy concerns.

European regulators have recently started pushing back more aggressively against the U.S. companies that wield significant power in the region. The European Commission has presented a formal plan to make European startups more competitive, but the proposal–called the Digital Single Market–has yet to be approved by the European Union’s member nations.

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