As accusations go, the European Commission’s (EC) contention that Google is illegally using its dominance in the internet search engine market to encourage European consumers to use Google’s own in-house shopping services ahead of its competitors is certainly causing a stir. Or to put it another way, the EC believes that Google’s alleged activities are a violation of European antitrust laws.

Putting its money where its mouth is, in April 2015, the EC filed formal antitrust charges against Google in connection with the technology giant’s biased search results, essentially accusing the American multinational of anticompetitive behaviour borne out of its dominance in the search market in Europe.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union (EU) commissioner in charge of competition policy, stated: “In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Google artificially favours its own shopping service and this constitutes an abuse.”

The EC’s decision, officially termed a ‘Statement of Objections’ (SO), is the latest development in a long-running investigation into Google’s practices within the European internet search engine market – an investigation that Google, on numerous occasions, has said it “strongly disagrees” with.

“Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary,” asserts Ms Vestager. “However, if the investigation confirms our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.” The EU commissioner also stated that it was vital for the EU to be able to apply regulations to major firms to ensure a balanced market and warned that Google could be hit with a hefty fine if it did not comply with any changes requested by the EC.

Jul-Sep 2015 issue

Fraser Tennant