The NPR reported that Google violated EU antitrust laws as it “denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.” The June 27, 2017 article entitled “Google Hit With $2.7 Billion Fine By European Antitrust Monitor” included these comments from European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager that Google “abused its market dominance … by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results, and demoting those of competitors” and the following:
While acknowledging that Google’s strategy included a plan to make its shopping product better than anyone else’s, she said that the way the company treated its rivals and “systematically” ranked its own service at or near the top of the rankings went beyond the normal scope of competition.
Google adopted the same practice in all 13 EU countries where it unveiled its shopping service, the European Commission says, starting with Germany and the United Kingdom in 2008 and, most recently, with Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Poland and Sweden in late 2013.
As for the effects of Google’s strategy, the commission says that traffic to Google’s comparison shopping service rose “45-fold in the United Kingdom, 35-fold in Germany, 19-fold in France, 29-fold in the Netherlands, 17-fold in Spain and 14-fold in Italy.”
The commission says that Google’s rivals saw their traffic plummet — by 85 percent in the United Kingdom, 92 percent in Germany and 80 percent in France.
Kent Walker, Google General Counsel responded:
We believe the European Commission’s online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data shows that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches.
The New York Times made these comments that Google will have to:
….focus will most likely shift quickly to the changes that Google will have to make to comply with the antitrust decision, potentially leaving it vulnerable to regular monitoring of its closely guarded search algorithm.
Stay tuned as the appellate process will be interesting to follow Google.
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