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23rd May 2019

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Google says EU antitrust charges are 'wrong'

  • Google says EU allegations its service are anti-competitive are incorrect (Photo: OZinOH)

The European Commission's allegations that American internet company Google has abused its dominant market position are “wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics”, and the proposed remedy is “peculiar and problematic”, Google said in a blog post published Thursday (27 August).

The US tech giant announced that it has sent Brussels “evidence and data to show why the [EU's] concerns are unfounded”, but the company's formal response itself, said by some media to be over 100 pages, has not been released publicly.

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It sent its defence 19 weeks after the bloc's competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager sent Google a “statement of objections”, outlining the preliminary conclusion that Google broke EU antitrust rules by favouring its own comparison shopping product in its regular search engine.

The internet giant said its response showed Vestager's allegations are “incorrect”.

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“We use traffic analysis to rebut claims that our ad displays and specialized organic results harmed competition by preventing shopping aggregators from reaching consumers. Economic data spanning more than a decade, an array of documents, and statements from complainants all confirm that product search is robustly competitive”, Google wrote.

When you search for a product in Google Search, Google may show advertisements from its Google Shopping feature.

By featuring Google's own shopping comparison service so prominently, it may “artificially divert traffic from rival comparison shopping services and hinder their ability to compete”, the commission said.

But Google responded – according to the blog – that this format is not anti-competitive.

“On the contrary, showing ads based on structured data provided by merchants demonstrably improves ad quality and makes it easier for consumers to find what they’re looking for … That’s not 'favouring' - that’s giving our customers and advertisers what they find most useful".

It added Google's search engine “is designed to provide the most relevant results and most useful ads for any query. Users and advertisers benefit when we do this well”.

Google is in a arguing that its shopping comparison service is better than its rivals' services.

But the commission can be expected to counter that it is problematic that it is Google deciding that a Google service is better than its competitors'.

Google originally had 10 weeks to reply, but filed for, and received, an extended period to reply. Following Google's answer, the commission will see if it is convinced by Google's answer, or if its preliminary conclusions will stand.

There is no deadline for the commission to reach a final conclusion.

If the commission decides that Google has broken antitrust rules, it may be fined up to 10 percent of its annual turnover, which in 2014 was $66 billion.

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