EU competition chief: Google is showing progress in addressing concerns

8 Oct 2018

Margrethe Vestager. Image: Mauro Bottaro/European Union

European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager says that Google is improving when it comes to boosting competition in online shopping.

Google and the European Commission (EC) have been at loggerheads regarding alleged flouting of competition rules for some time now. An investigation by the EC into various business practices at the company has been ongoing since April 2015. One such argument culminated in a €2.42bn fine in June 2017.

In this particular instance, the EC criticised the company for abusing its own dominance as a search engine by giving an “illegal advantage” to its own comparison shopping service. Google displayed its price comparison chart at the very top of its search results, which the EC deemed unfair to other, smaller companies.

Google has made strides

Since then, the search giant had issued some proposals to increase competition in online shopping. Last year, parent company Alphabet offered to allow price comparison rivals to bid for advertising space at the top of a search page. This allowance would give smaller firms a chance to compete on an equal footing with Google.

At the end of September, the company issued a second progress report to the EC. If the firm fails to comply with the EU competition enforcer’s order, fines of up to 5pc of its global daily turnover could be on the cards.

Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager told attendees at the Globsec Tatra Summit that Google is making some notable progress. According to Reuters, she said: “We had another compliance report … and we see improvements in numbers but we are still following it very, very closely and have taken no decision yet.”

Is enough being done?

While the progress has been noted, some competitors in countries such as the US, Britain, France and Germany say the changes are not enough. Vestager said she was well aware of such complaints and would be keeping them in mind.

“I take a keen interest in what some of the other shopping comparison services say. Having met with a couple of them, of course that raises new questions for us,” Vestager noted. She added that she was keen on discussing the questions raised directly with some of the competitors.

Another antitrust case against Google around its alleged abuse of market power with its Android OS resulted in a €4.34bn fine by the EC in July of this year.

The company is far from the only business the EC has in its sights. In September, Vestager and her team began taking some steps to begin an antitrust investigation into Amazon.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects