Google rejects EU’s antitrust charges

Google denies antitrust charges over its shopping feature

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

People are silhouetted as they pose with laptops in front of a screen projected with a Google logo, in Zenica, October 29, 2014

Google launched its fight back against European Commission antitrust charges late on Thursday, calling them "wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics.”

The Internet giant filed a 100-page response to charges initiated by European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in April that stem from a five year investigation. The company is accused of manipulating the market by favoring its own shopping price comparison platform.

Google risks a fine of 10 percent of its global revenue, around $66 million, if it loses the case.

Although neither the EU’s case nor Google’s counter-argument have been made public, Google lawyer Kent Walker published a blog Thursday in which he attacked the investigation.

He said the EU’s claim that paid adverts carried by Google directed Internet users away from rival shopping services is not backed by evidence and does not "counter the significant benefits to consumers and advertisers".

Walker added: “We don’t think this format is 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.”

“We show these ad groups where we’ve always shown ads, to the right and at the top of organic results and we use specialized algorithms to maximize their relevance for users… That’s not “favoring”,  that’s giving our customers and advertisers what they find most useful.”

The EU claims regular searches via the Google browser favor links to Google's shopping site without giving a fair chance to its competitors, who reportedly pressed for the commission investigation.

The case is one of a number that have pitched the EU against global technology companies including Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

The commission is also investigating other Google services and the company’s Android mobile phone software.

In its defense, Google has commissioned a written opinion from Bo Vesterdorf, a former president of the European Court, supporting its case.

One of the complainants against Google is Fairsearch Europe, an umbrella group for a number of price comparison sites. In a statement issued at the time of the commission’s allegations, the organization said more than 30 companies and consumer organizations had filed complaints about Google’s "abuse of its dominance".

It added: "The commission’s determination to investigate this is important because Google Android has used its dominance to move from an open system to a closed one, so it can exclude competitors to the benefit of its own businesses."

The commission is expected to make a decision on the case later this year.