An anti-competition case brought by the EU Commission against Google has been rebuffed by the search giant, claiming Amazon and Facebook are getting off scot-free.
“Ultimately, we can’t agree with a case that lacks evidence and would limit our ability to serve our users, just to satisfy the interests of a small number of websites.”
So said Kent Walker, Google’s SVP and general counsel, in a strong rebuttal called ‘Improving quality isn’t anti-competitive’.
Walker was responding to an ongoing challenge that began when the European Commission opened an investigation six years ago, on the back of complaints from Microsoft and other rival companies.
The Commission contends that Google unfairly promotes its shopping service and blocks rivals in online-search advertising, something which the company could face billions of euro in fines for, should the final ruling agree.
Walker said the Commission’s original statement of objections “drew such a narrow definition around online shopping” that it meant the likes of online shopping behemoth Amazon were excluded.
“It claimed that when we offered improved shopping ads to our users and advertisers, we were ‘favouring’ our own services – and that this was bad for a handful of price-comparison aggregators who claimed to have lost clicks from Google,” he said.
“But it failed to take into account the competitive significance of companies like Amazon and the broader dynamics of online shopping.”
Walker said Google isn’t ‘favouring’ anything, it was merely listening to its customers.
The latest Commission statement of objections, posted during the summer, responded to these claims by arguing Amazon is not a fair comparison, due to its role in paying price-comparison websites for its traffic.
This isn’t good enough for Google, with Walker pointing out that the route to buying products online isn’t as simple as a quick search and a purchase. As Google has grown, he said, websites such as Amazon or eBay have seen their traffic grow in a complementary fashion.
The EU executive said it had received Google’s response, claiming it would “carefully consider” it before making a final decision, just as it does “in each case”.
A separate charge against Google’s online-search advertising product, AdSense for search, has also been filed, which too, has been challenged by the company.
The Commission plans to hand down hefty fines to Google if they are found guilty of breaching EU rules, according to Reuters. The penalty could reach €6.6bn, or 10pc of the company’s global turnover for each case.