European Union targets Google over Android and its Shopping site
The European Union has accused Google of abusing the popularity of its search product to boost its shopping comparison site to others' detriment. Oh,and it has also started an antitrust investigation into the company's Android operating system.
The commission filed a Statement of Objections against Google claiming the company "abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European Economic Area" by "systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages."
Google responded to that statement with a blog post showing that many of its competitors receive more traffic in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom than Google Shopping. (It also made the more dubious claim that the existence of search tools like DuckDuckGo shows that it doesn't dominate the market.)
Yet Business Insider claims those services might be thriving despite Google's efforts to promote its own products, not because it isn't stacking the deck. All the proof for that, it argues, is at the top of basically every search result page:
More and more frequently, Google places its own results from its own properties on top of the actual "organic" search results that its algorithm produces. In many ways, this is the smoking gun against Google: Everyone admits Google's search engine is the best. Its algorithm dominance is natural and not the product of unfair competition. But if the Google engine produces the best search results, why does Google feel the need to cram those results them down beneath its own less-then-stellar properties?The antitrust investigation into Android will seek to determine "whether Google has breached EU antitrust rules by hindering the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems, applications and services to the detriment of consumers and developers of innovative services and products."
Google responded to the news of this investigation with another blog post. This time it argued that Android's mobile dominance has been good for everyone:
We are thankful for Android’s success and we understand that with success comes scrutiny. But it's not just Google that has benefited from Android's success. The Android model has let manufacturers compete on their unique innovations. Developers can reach huge audiences and build strong businesses. And consumers now have unprecedented choice at ever-lower prices.The New York Times reports that the European Commission could fine Google more than €6 billion -- far more than the fines Microsoft incurred when it ran afoul of antitrust laws. Google's unlikely to be charged that much, and it could settle, but the Times says these complaints will still probably be quite costly.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]