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Google has rebutted the European Commission’s anti-competitive charges against the ad giant’s alleged abuse of dominance in its price comparison, specialised search services, and AdSense businesses.
The company—after a number of deadline extensions from Brussels—came out fighting in a blog post penned by Google’s chief counsel Kent Walker that was published on Thursday:
In recent years, we’ve improved the format of our ads to include more informative displays with pictures, prices, and links where you can buy products. Showing more useful ads benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, you, our users.
That’s why we disagree with the European Commission’s argument that our improved Google Shopping results are harming competition.
It claimed that EC antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager’s charge on the company favouring its own price comparison and specialised search—or, as Google prefers to describe it, “shopping services”—over its competitors carried too “narrow” a definition, arguing that it excluded the “competitive significance” of Amazon and other players in that market. Walker said:
Our response demonstrated that online shopping is robustly competitive, with lots of evidence supporting the common-sense conclusion that Google and many other websites are chasing Amazon, by far the largest player on the field.
UK price comparison site Foundem—the original complainant in the EC case against Google, which was formally opened in 2010—said it was disappointed with the multinational’s response.
It said that “Google continues to publicly defend its anti-competitive search manipulation practices by misrepresenting both the charges it faces and the important differences between ‘shopping’ and ‘shopping comparison’.”
Google—to ram home its argument—added that Brussels’ case “just doesn’t fit the reality of how most people shop online.” It repeatedly talked about how the ad market is constantly shifting, in comments that appeared to largely ignore the historic nature of some of the EC’s charges against Google.
“There are hundreds of shopping comparison sites and over the past 10 years, some gained traffic, others lost traffic. Some exited the market, others entered,” Walker said. “This kind of dynamic competition is undeniable. Online advertising is evolving rapidly, with companies like Facebook, Pinterest, and many others re-inventing what it means to connect merchants with consumers.”
He claimed that “a rapidly increasing amount of traffic flowed from our search pages to popular sites like Amazon and eBay as they expanded in Europe.”
Unfortunately for Google, its continuing protestations about the flourishing fortunes of Amazon and eBay remain the red herrings they have always been.
Google does not (yet) have an eCommerce, auction, or merchant-platform service that competes with Amazon or eBay. Therefore, Google does not (yet) have any incentive to anti-competitively penalise Amazon or eBay in its natural search results, and it does not (yet) have any competing service of its own to anti-competitively favour.
Separately in the same blog post, Google also disputed the commission’s charge against its AdSense business tactics—though it didn’t flesh out the reasons for its beef with Vestager in that particular case. Similarly, Google said that it would respond in the next few days to the commission’s charge against its Android operating system. Presumably, this too will publicly rebut the bloc’s competition chief.
The commission is now mulling over Google’s responses before it decides on how it might proceed on the three separate charges levelled against the ad giant. If fines are imposed on Google, it faces penalties of up to five percent of its annual turnover for each charge—potentially billions of euros.
This post originated on Ars Technica UK