Google hit with European antitrust charges

Europe may have been the one to bring the antitrust charges against Google, but a few key American companies must be jumping for joy right now.

Companies like Microsoft, Yelp and TripAdvisor have fought hard to bring concerns about Google to European regulators, who have been investigating the company since 2010.

The European Commission announced Wednesday it had formerly charged Google with abusing its dominant position in search, “by systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages.”

It also launched an investigation into whether in the field of mobile phones, Google has either entered into illegal agreements or abused its dominant position when it comes to the Android operating system.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner in charge of competition policy, said in a statement:

I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary. However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.

The news was a blow to Google, which tried twice to settle with European regulators and fought successfully to avoid similar charges from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

In a blog post titled “The Search for Harm,” Amit Singhal,  senior vice president of Google search, said that when it comes to shopping sites, competition has only increased in Europe:

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.

Google, if it fails to successfully rebut the charges, could face penalties as high as 10 percent of its global annual revenue, the New York Times reported.  Google has 10 weeks to respond to the European authorities.

While the European charges are narrowly tailored to Google Shopping, the case “could set a precedent that would have implications for other services such as Google’s flight or hotel booking operations,” said Fortune.

Above: Outside of Google’s headquarters in Mountain View. (Ryan Anson/AFP/Getty Images)


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