EU accuses Google of abusing Internet search dominance

April 16 03:40 2015

The European Union’s competition regulator on Wednesday accused Google of illegally abusing its dominance of the Internet search market in Europe by favoring its own comparison-shopping product when consumers shop online. The case could cost the tech firm billions in fines or even force Google to make significant changes to its business in Europe. It also revives memories of Microsoft’s decade-long antitrust fight with the EU. That case ended in 2009 with Microsoft paying over $2 billion in fines to the EU’s competition commission.635646676116086111-AX155-01AE-9

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Wednesday in a statement unveiling an investigation that she is “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.” Vestager also is probing Google’s Android mobile operating systems, apps and services. Vestager said that she wants to “make sure the markets in this area can flourish without anti-competitive constraints.”

Google accounts for 90% of all Internet searches in Europe and the commission alleges the Internet giant broke antitrust regulations by siphoning traffic from its competitors to its own services. The commission said Google “may be artificially divert(ing) traffic from rival comparison shopping services (to its Google Shopping) and hinder their ability to compete.” This is the first time a regulator has filed formal antitrust charges against Google.

In a blog post, Amit Singhal, senior vice president of Google search, said: “We respectfully but strongly disagree with the need to issue a Statement of Objections and look forward to making our case over the weeks ahead.” In a memo to employees that was leaked to the re/code technology website on Tuesday, Google said it had a “very strong case” against the charges. Part of its defense: that Google offers consumers a quicker, more direct service. “While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways — and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark,” Singhal wrote in the blog post published Wednesday.