Commission alleges Google 'abused its dominant position' in internet search

Parliament's political groups have welcomed the European commission's decision to 'show its teeth' to search giant Google.

By James O'Brien

15 Apr 2015

The European commission has sent a 'statement of objections' to Google, alleging the internet search giant has "abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European economic area (EEA)".

The statement claims Google is "systematically favouring" its own comparison shopping tool in its general search results pages. The commission believes that this is a breach of EU antitrust rules as "it stifles competition and harms consumers".

"We are seeing some life in the commission's competition directorate […] after having been asleep on the job for far too long." - Morten Messerschmidt, ECR group

Separately, the commission has launched an antitrust probe into Google's conduct in relation to the Android mobile operating system. It will investigate whether the search engine entered into anti-competitive agreements and abused its dominant market position in the areas of operating systems, applications and services for mobile devices.

Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said, "The commission's objective is to apply EU antitrust rules to ensure that companies operating in Europe, wherever they may be based, do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation."

She said that Google "now has the opportunity to convince the commission to the contrary" and pointed to the "increasing role" technology plays in people's daily lives.

The Danish commissioner added that her aim is "to make sure the markets in this area can flourish without anticompetitive constraints imposed by any company".

Chairman of parliament's EPP group Manfred Weber welcomed the commission's investigation into the "very dominant position" of Google.

Weber called for Europe to "show its teeth against US giant groups in the interest of consumers and of competition".

The German MEP said the internet "is not the wild west - there are rules on the web that must be respected".

Morten Messerschmidt, parliament's rapporteur on the annual report on EU competition policy in 2014 said, the announcement was evidence that, "we are seeing some life in the commission's competition directorate […] after having been asleep on the job for far too long".

The ECR MEP predicts the commission's digital agenda will "have no credibility until this issue is resolved".

He added that, "The commission has now showed its teeth, and it must now work swiftly with Google to resolve this case and create an open and fair internet search marketplace."

Michel Reimon, the Greens/EFA shadow rapporteur on the annual report on EU competition policy said, "There can be little doubt that Google abuses its dominant market position, so it was high time for the commission to formally act on this."

The Greens competition spokesman for his group believes that the commission "should now push ahead and ensure there are proper consequences for Google's business model".

Reimon dismissed the arguments put forward by the US search engine that consumers are free to use other search providers as "misleading".

The Austrian MEP said, "Google's un-level playing field inhibits these firms from growing and spreading information. Users are indirectly affected if the diversity of and access to information is limited."

The commission has in the past been accused of not taking its investigation into Google seriously enough. The search engine has yet to officially respond to the commission's investigation but an internal memo published by the technology news website 're/code' described the development as "very disappointing news".

 

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