EU comes down on Google, claiming abuse of dominance for search results

15 Apr 2015

After much build-up, the European Union (EU) has finally revealed its intentions regarding its claims that Google’s search results are anti-competitive and has now filed a statement of objection (SO).

For the last five years, the EU has been looking extensively into Google’s search engine service, the most dominant worldwide by a considerable margin, and whether its results were heavily skewed towards its own range of services and products, something which the EU now says is the case.

Google+, Google Maps and YouTube were all cited as being examples where these services would get preferential treatment over similar services that, based off understandings of Google search trends, effectively leaves them marginalised.

In its release in response to the EU’s statement of objection (SO) to Google, the EU’s commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, said of its conclusions: “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 now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary. However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.

Google's UK shopping statistics

A graph issued by Google showing their evidence that Google’s results for shopping online in the UK does not favour their services. Image via Google

Google: accusations ‘wide of the mark’

Following calls from the EU to change Google search result preferences last year, the US company agreed to alter its search results, placing competitors adverts side-by-side with Google’s own, but the EU came out saying that they didn’t feel the efforts went far enough.

Google has now responded with its own rebuttal, vehemently denying the claims, citing graphed examples including search results for shopping websites in the UK during an eight-year period.

“While Google may be the most-used search engine,” Google’s statement said, “people can now find and access information in numerous different ways – and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark.”

Now that Google has been issued with an SO, should the legal system side with the EU’s case, Google could be forced to pay billions of euro in penalties for their alleged subverting of European competition laws.

European Union headquarters image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic