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.