Google says EU antitrust charges are unfounded

Growth sows distrust. Move On protest, Google HQ. [Travis Wise/Flickr]

Google, the world’s most popular internet search engine, rejected on Thursday (27 August) European Union antitrust charges that it abused its market power, saying they lacked any economic or legal basis.

“Economic data spanning more than a decade, an array of documents and statements from complainants all confirm that product search is robustly competitive,” Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, wrote in a blog.

The comments came after the company submitted a document of more than 100 pages to counter the European Commission, which has accused Google of distorting search results to favour its shopping service, harming both rivals and consumers.

The European Commission formally charged Google with antitrust violations in April.

Google cited traffic anaylses in its response to the Commission in an effort to rebut allegations that its ad services hurt e-commerce competitors from reaching customers.

The response includes economic data from over a decade, which Google hopes will bolster its claim that the company’s search services are competitive. Amazon and eBay, according to the Google blog post, are some of the biggest contenders in e-commerce–proof that Google hasn’t stamped out other businesses.

Around twenty tech businesses are on the list of complainants against Google, including Microsoft and TripAdvisor.

The European Commission is still looking into other aspects of Google’s businesses that its previously raised issues with, including Google search.

The European Commission accused Google of distorting web search results to favour its shopping service.

>>Read: Google warned about self-promotion in search results

In April, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the American tech giant, which dominates Internet search engines worldwide, had been sent a Statement of Objections - effectively a charge sheet - to which it can respond by the end of August.

"I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules," she said. "If the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe."

The EU antitrust authority can sanction wrongdoers up to 10% of their global turnover.

>>Read: EU charges Google in antitrust case

Google has put forward three proposals to resolve the case, initially put forward in 2010 by then Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. In 2014, it offered to give competing products and services bigger visibility on its website, let content providers decide what material it can use for its own services and make it easier for advertisers to move their campaigns to rivals.

Almunia initially accepted that deal, only to reverse his decision six months later and demand more concessions, leaving the ultimate decision to his successor.

>>Read: Brussels reaches antitrust deal with Google, gets scolded

A final resolution - possibly involving court action if Google does not choose to settle - is likely to take many months and probably years.

Subscribe to our newsletters