Google Looks Forward to Responding to Europe's Charges of Anti-Trust Violations
Google appears ready to respond to potentially costly anti-trust allegations from European regulators. According to the New York Times, Google is expected to begin offering rebuttals later this week to charges from the European Commission that it hindered competition of its search and advertising services, as well as for Android, its mobile operating system.
The report states that Google will begin submitting official responses to the Commission’s three cases against it as early as Thursday, however, European officials are not expected to make a final decision on any of the cases until mid-2017 at the earliest. If found in violation, Google faces fines of up to $7.5 billion and new rules on how it operates across the 28-member union, though it’s expected such a conclusion would trigger a lengthy appeals process.
"We believe that our innovations and product improvements have increased choice for European consumers and promote competition," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to Billboard. "We look forward to making our case to the European Commission."
The Commission has accused Google of the following:
-- April 2015, the Commission accused the company of abusing its position as the dominant search engine by "systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results page." The conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers, the Commission alleged. "It means consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries," said top Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
-- April 2015, the Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation into conduct related to the Android operating system. A year later, in April 2016, the Commission formally filed charges claiming Google was breaking EU antitrust rules by requiring most smartphone makers to preinstall its OS and various applications, like Chrome and Google Maps.
-- July 2016, regulators said Google was violating EU antitrust rules by imposing conditions on third parties that use its "AdSense for Search" platform for their search portals. According to the Commission, Google required third parties do the following: give Google exclusivity when sourcing search ads; make it so competing search ads cannot be placed above or next to Google search ads; give the most prominent space on results to Google ads; require Google to approve any changes to how competing ads appear.
Following the July announcement, Vestager told CNBC that it was unclear whether the three cases -- shopping search results, Android, AdSense -- would ever be combined, "because what we see is a quite common pattern between them, quite different Google cases, that they seem to pursue a strategy of remaining dominant in search."
Google controls about 90 percent of the online search market in Europe, experts have said. Other tech giants, such as Microsoft, have urged the EU to bring the case, pushing for more competition.
Google has not confirmed the timing of its response to Europe, but earlier it rebuffed the allegation that its shopping results were killing competition. "Our search engine is designed to provide the most relevant results and most useful ads for any query," the company said in a blog post. "Users and advertisers benefit when we do this well. So does Google. It’s in our interest to provide high-quality results and ads that connect people to what they’re looking for. The more relevant the ads -- the better they perform in connecting potential buyers and sellers -- the more value they generate for everyone."