Google hits back at ‘unfounded’ European antitrust charges

Google is not favoring its own products in search results, it said today in an official response to charges brought by European antitrust regulators in April.

The company submitted a 150-page rebuttal to charges by Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s antitrust chief. The company says there’s plenty of competition in search, and it has the data to prove it.

“We believe that the [Statement of Objections’] preliminary conclusions are wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics,” Google SVP and General Counsel Kent Walker wrote in a blog post outlining the company’s objections.

When she filed charges in April, Vestager wrote that she was “concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules.” She gave Google until this month to respond.

As Michelle Quinn wrote then, the charges were a blow to Google, which had fought the accusations for years and seemed to have been close to reaching a settlement with regulators before the departure of Vestager’s predecessor, Joaquin Almunia.

In his blog post, Walker argued that Amazon and eBay continue to be big competitors in shopping search. He said Google’s shopping-comparison product delivers relevant results that help consumers. In addition, he said Google has actually boosted the traffic to other shopping services in the past decade.

“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),” Walker wrote.

What’s next? Officials will review Google’s response. The complainants in the case (Microsoft, Yelp, European companies) will likely want to rebut Google’s rebuttal. A final decision is expected next year, according to the New York Times. The company could face billions of dollars in penalties if it is found to have violated antitrust rules.


Photo from AFP/Getty Images


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