The European Union (EU) has thrown yet another antitrust charge at Google, which marks the third charge in less than two years. The charges once again are related to Google allegedly abusing its dominant market position in Europe. This time the EU is accusing Google of blocking its competitors ads from appearing on certain sites.
The EU Antitrust Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, says Google is denying other companies the change to compete and innovate. Vestager reinforced her position against Google with a tweet this morning saying there’s “strong evidence” to back up their claims.
We reinforce Google case on search/shopping comparison with new, strong evidence and send statement of objections t Google on search adverts
— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) July 14, 2016
In addition, there are claims from the European Commission that Google favors its own shopping service in the general search results pages. If that proves to be the case, it’s not only a disservice to competitors its a disservice to searchers who may not be getting the most relevant results for their queries.
Google has not responded to the latest charge from the EU, other than to say:
“We’ll examine the Commission’s renewed cases and provide a detailed response in the coming weeks”
EU vs. Google
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Google is no stranger to receiving antitrust charges from the European Commission. In April 2015 Google faced similar charges, with the EU claiming Google was deliberately displaying its own products ahead of competitors in European search results.
In April of this year Google was charged by the EU for “unfair business practices”, which stemmed from the fact that Google apps come preinstalled on Android devices. The EU claimed having Google apps preinstalled prevented similar apps from having a chance to compete.
To understand where all the scrutiny comes from, one must first understand the difference between Google’s market position in Europe and Google’s market position in the US. In Europe, Google commands over a 90% share of the search market. At last count, Google’s share of the search market in the US is around 64%. It’s safe to say Google is used much more in Europe than in the US, which means it commands a greater influence. That could be why Google faces such scrutiny in Europe and why the EU is constantly trying to level out the playing field.
There’s no crime in dominating a market, even 90% of it, but if Google is found to be in violation of the EU’s competition rules then the company could face some serious ramifications.