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Does The EU Have A Case Against Google?

The European Union announced last week that it would pursue antitrust action against Google, but are the claims overblown?

Regulators at the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, sent a statement of objections to Google alleging that the company has abused its European search-engine dominance by systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages, according to a press release from the EC.

The Europeans are claiming that consumers are hurt when Google displays results for its own service, Google Shopping, “more prominently” than competing services, asserting that the practice could “artificially divert traffic from rival comparison shopping services and hinder their ability to compete on the market.”

In other words, European law considers it too burdensome for consumers to look beyond the first link in a list of search results. (RELATED: Google Decides What is Fact in New Search Results Ranking System)

The European Commission’s objections seem to stem from a belief that the widespread popularity of Google’s search engine — where 90 percent of all searches in Europe originate — creates a social obligation for the company to list results impartially for both its own services and competing ones.

As EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager put it, “dominant companies have a responsibility not to abuse their powerful market position.”

Google and its defenders, though, point out that users have a plethora of alternatives to Google’s search engine, including Yahoo and Bing, mobile search assistants like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, and specialized services such as Amazon, Expedia and eBay. (RELATED: What if Microsoft Exited the Search Business?)

“The analogy I like to use is, complaining that Google is lifting its own vertical search engine over other vertical search engines would be like complaining that The New York Times is not carrying The Los Angeles Times’ sports section,” Danny Sullivan, founder of the online publication Search Engine Land, told The New York Times.

“You don’t expect The New York Times to carry a rival sports section,” Sullivan explained, “but you do expect it to have a sports section. When people go to a search engine, they’re looking to search across everything.”

Geoffrey Manne, executive director of the International Center for Law & Economics, a non-partisan research center, likewise sympathizes with Google in a press release, arguing that, “Competition laws don’t require Google or any other large firm to make life easier for competitors.” (RELATED: FTC Concludes Google Investigation Amidst Lack of Evidence of Unfair Practices)

“To suggest that competition is thwarted unless Google provides ‘equal access’ to other providers’ product search results on Google’s own general search results page is to deny the dynamic reality of today’s market— let alone the evolving market of the future,” he argues.

Follow Peter Fricke on Twitter

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.



 

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