22nd Mar 2018

Google rejects EU charges on online shopping

US tech giant Google has rebuked European Commission claims that it has stifled competition on online shopping.

"We believe these claims are wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics," the US internet company's senior vice-president and general counselor, Kent Walker, said in a post published on Google's blog on Thursday (3 November).

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  • The European Commission’s case "doesn’t fit the reality of how most people shop online," Google said (Photo: Trey Ratcliff)

At the same time Google sent its response to antitrust charges issued by the commission last July.

The charges, known as statements of objection (SO), followed a first SO sent in 2015 when the commission formally opened an anti-trust case about Google's online shopping practices.

The commission said that Google "systematically favour[ed] its own comparison shopping service in its general search results" at the expense of other comparison services.

It also said that these comparison services and merchant platforms, such as Amazon and eBay, were two different markets, that merchants platforms were not competitors to Google and that they should not be taken into account when looking at how shopping services were displayed by Google.

In his blog post, Walker argued that the commission took a "narrow definition" of the market and "failed to take into account the competitive significance of companies like Amazon and the broader dynamics of online shopping."

He also argued that "the commission’s revised case still rests on a theory that just doesn’t fit the reality of how most people shop online."

He wrote that "all of these services - search engines, price comparison sites, merchant platforms, and merchants - compete with each other in online shopping," and that Google was not in a position to oblige people to use its services to shop online.

'No meaningful correlation'

"There is simply no meaningful correlation between the evolution of our search services and the performance of price comparison sites," he wrote, adding that "as the market changes, there are inevitably shifts among competitors."

Sources close to the case said that Google's response was "very strong" and that the company was open to a compromise with the commission on a case that has been running for six years.

The European Commission started to investigate on Google's practices in November 2010, and opened the formal case almost five years later.

Google also sent on Thursday its response in a parallel case, over its AdSense service for advertisement, where the commission said it was protecting its dominant position in online search advertising.

Google's legal chief Walker did not elaborate on this case in his blog post, but the company has been saying that text based ads were not a different market from other forms of online advertisement.

In a third case opened earlier this year, the commission has accused Google of abusing its position to prevent other applications in its Android system for mobile. The company has until next week to send its response.

Google faces possible EU fine

Google has 10 weeks to respond to the EU commission in a case that could see it fined up to 10 percent of its recent annual turnover.

EU files new antitrust case against Google

Competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has added concerns over Google's advertising service to the pile of EU antitrust charges against the company.

EU fines Google €2.4 bn over online shopping

Brussels says Google has abused a near-monopoly position in online searches to favour its shopping service, but the US company said Brussels cannot prove the charges.

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