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European Commission Opens Another Antitrust Case Against Google

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, formally opened an antitrust case against Google today. The governing body claimed that Google is prioritizing its own products and not allowing competing companies a fair shot at customers. The case involves two issues: Google's comparison shopping and the Android operating system.

The European Commission believes that Google places results from its shopping product, Google Shopping, higher on search results than other companies even though its results might not be as good as competing shopping websites. This gives Google the upper hand in the market and increases growth in the product, but the consumer loses because they didn't see the best results for their shopping needs.

This investigation was the result of another antitrust case against Google by the European Commission in 2010, which focused on Google's search results. The allegations five years ago were based on complaints that Google placed sponsored links (or even its own services) higher than competing services that were unpaid or non-sponsored, which rival companies considered competitively unfair.

Regarding Android, the EC believes Google is squeezing out competition by pre-installing its own apps and services, preventing manufacturers from modifying and developing their own versions of Android to compete with Google and forcing users into Google's own services and apps by linking it with other Google services on the mobile device.

If this sounds all too familiar, it is. Google has been a constant target of antitrust cases in Europe. In February, a Russian competition watchdog opened a case against the search giant after the Russian-based search engine company Yandex filed an antitrust complaint against Google. The complaint stated that it's difficult to have a competing search engine on Android devices because the default search engine on mobile devices running the operating system is Google. The popular search engine has a big stake in the market with Android devices, claiming an 86 percent majority in the Russian smartphone market.

In light of this new case, Google defended itself today with a blog post from Amit Singhal, the senior vice president of Google Search. Singhal wrote that the European Commission's claims are untrue, showing graphs of how Google performs against competing European services in both air travel and online shopping. Singhal said that there is constant innovation and that new companies are springing up in Europe and offering online services, negating Google's supposed dominance on the continent.

It's unclear when and if we'll find out the results of the European Commission's case against Google. The investigation has been an ever-growing snowball since 2010, with the case opening, closing, and then reopening again. Every antitrust complaint from a competing service adds fuel to the Commission's investigation fire, and if it's successful, the online landscape could change for the powerful Mountain View-based company.

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  • ahnilated
    Aaah, if you are going to Google.com then it is their site. Why wouldn't they promote their stuff compared to others. If you want to get different results use a different search engine. They have to pay the bills somehow.
    Reply
  • sykozis
    They do have to pay the bills, but they don't have to skew search results the way they do. Not that long ago I searched for the same information on 3 different search engines. Google, Yahoo and Bing. The first relevant link was on page 4 from Google. It was on page 1 for Yahoo and Bing. These days, I'm using Bing more and more as I find what I'm looking for appearing in the first couple links without having to go through multiple pages of results.

    As for Google search on Android, I feel Google should be forced to do with Android what Microsoft was forced to do with Internet Explorer in Windows. When the phone is setup, Google should be required to provide a list of competing search engines for the user to choose from. In fact, I think Google should be required to provide a list of ALL competing services/apps. It would only be fair. They should also be forced to remove the requirement of a Google account to use Android and provide a method to disable ALL user tracking.
    Reply
  • balister
    15684974 said:
    Aaah, if you are going to Google.com then it is their site. Why wouldn't they promote their stuff compared to others. If you want to get different results use a different search engine. They have to pay the bills somehow.

    It's not search that the EU is going after, it's search results from retailers and sellers. Google lists the retailers who pay them the most first on the search results of suggesting retailers, so a company that might offer you a better price or be closer to you may not show up in the results because they didn't pay Google (enough). That is the is what the Antitrust case against search is about, not some much search itself, but instead how Google lists the retailers that might sell an item someone is looking for.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    "Regarding Android, the EC believes Google is squeezing out competition by pre-installing its own apps and services, preventing manufacturers from modifying and developing their own versions of Android to compete with Google and forcing users into Google's own services and apps by linking it with other Google services on the mobile device."

    So the only reason this DOESN'T apply to Apple would be because they don't allow 3rd parties to make hardware for their iOS? Everything else in that complaint is exactly what Apple does... :P
    Reply
  • glasssplinter
    As for Google search on Android, I feel Google should be forced to do with Android what Microsoft was forced to do with Internet Explorer in Windows. When the phone is setup, Google should be required to provide a list of competing search engines for the user to choose from. In fact, I think Google should be required to provide a list of ALL competing services/apps. It would only be fair. They should also be forced to remove the requirement of a Google account to use Android and provide a method to disable ALL user tracking.
    Why exactly? You're buying a google product and then don't want to use google software? That's like buying an iphone and complaining about itunes.
    Reply
  • alidan
    for all the good the eu can do, this over regulation is horrible.
    Reply
  • tom10167
    They do have to pay the bills, but they don't have to skew search results the way they do. Not that long ago I searched for the same information on 3 different search engines. Google, Yahoo and Bing. The first relevant link was on page 4 from Google. It was on page 1 for Yahoo and Bing. These days, I'm using Bing more and more as I find what I'm looking for appearing in the first couple links without having to go through multiple pages of results.
    Thank you for perfectly pointing out why this is nonsense. 1.) they don't HAVE to skew the results, but they can if they want to. It's their search engine. Does it say anywhere that they will always 100% provide the most fair search results to all users? No.
    2.) As you point out, Google is not a Monopoly. Don't like the results Google gives you? Use Bing and stop crying(which is exactly what you've done!) I nominate you to run the EU antitrust division.
    Reply
  • sykozis
    15685454 said:
    As for Google search on Android, I feel Google should be forced to do with Android what Microsoft was forced to do with Internet Explorer in Windows. When the phone is setup, Google should be required to provide a list of competing search engines for the user to choose from. In fact, I think Google should be required to provide a list of ALL competing services/apps. It would only be fair. They should also be forced to remove the requirement of a Google account to use Android and provide a method to disable ALL user tracking.
    Why exactly? You're buying a google product and then don't want to use google software? That's like buying an iphone and complaining about itunes.

    If I buy a Samsung Galaxy S4 (which I do own), I'm not buying a "Google product". I'm buying a Samsung product. If I buy an LG G2, I'm buying an LG product. Not a Google product. Why isn't Google being held to the same standards they wanted forced on MS over IE? Google joined the complaint against MS over Internet Explorer. Now MS has to provide access to alternate web browsers. Google should be forced to provide access to services and apps that compete with their own for Android users.

    I also don't see where Google has any right to track my phone.

    15685663 said:
    They do have to pay the bills, but they don't have to skew search results the way they do. Not that long ago I searched for the same information on 3 different search engines. Google, Yahoo and Bing. The first relevant link was on page 4 from Google. It was on page 1 for Yahoo and Bing. These days, I'm using Bing more and more as I find what I'm looking for appearing in the first couple links without having to go through multiple pages of results.
    Thank you for perfectly pointing out why this is nonsense. 1.) they don't HAVE to skew the results, but they can if they want to. It's their search engine. Does it say anywhere that they will always 100% provide the most fair search results to all users? No.
    2.) As you point out, Google is not a Monopoly. Don't like the results Google gives you? Use Bing and stop crying(which is exactly what you've done!) I nominate you to run the EU antitrust division.

    I'm adaptable. Not everyone else is. I'll open 2 tabs just so I can use Bing and Google at the same time. There is an advantage to my methods, just as there are drawbacks.

    If I were unning the EU Commission, Google would be forced to comply with the same standards they helped force on MS. Anything forced on Windows would be forced on Android, ChromeOS, OSX and iOS as well. If we're going for fair competition, we might as well make things "fair" across the board.
    Reply
  • falchard
    lol EU needs more money. So more anti-trust cases against US tech companies.
    Reply
  • NightshadeRC
    I don't believe Microsoft should have been forced to do anything either. It is their operating system. They should have the freedom to choose what software can or cannot run on their software. I don't see any difference between what Microsoft was doing and what Google are going compared to what Apple do on their mobile platform.
    Reply