UPDATE September 1, 2015:
European Publishers Play Lobbying Role Against Google - The New York Times: "... Even Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, whose European interests include the British newspapers The Times and The Sun and The Wall Street Journal Europe, joined the fray, urging the European Commission last fall to take action against Google, which it labeled a “platform for piracy.” ... Mr. Almunia left the investigation to his successor, Ms. Vestager, who announced antitrust charges against Google in April. Many publishers backed the move, saying the company’s business model had limited online choice for consumers. “Europe’s publishers are well-organized, well-connected and a really powerful lobby,” said Stefan Heumann, director of the European digital agenda program at the New Responsibility Foundation, a Berlin-based research organization. “Many of them are struggling to grasp the realities of the new digital world.”
UPDATE: FairSearch statement regarding Google's response to the Statement of Objections - FAIR SEARCH: Brussels, 27 August 2015 – "We have seen this movie before. Defendants in big European antitrust cases have made the same arguments. Just like Google here, they have argued that the EC is incorrectly defining the market in which harm is occurring. They also argued, just like Google now, that even if one accepts the EC’s market definition, there was no harm to competition in that market. And they argued, again like Google today, that the antitrust authorities just don’t get it, and that the remedy they demand cannot be implemented without causing technical and market chaos. The truth, as in previous cases, is that the Commission has properly defined the market into which Google has leveraged its overwhelming dominance in search, namely the shopping (price) comparison market. Google has decimated competition in that market by preferencing its own product comparison service in its search results, and consumers have been harmed — and paid higher prices – because Google has cornered the shopping comparison market. And the truth is that the Commission understands the markets and the technology very well, and Google is perfectly capable of implementing a remedy that provides equal treatment both to its own product comparison service and to those of others. The Commission is completely correct that this is the only remedy that is principles-based and future-proof. Please see our chronology for details of the case."
Google today responded to the European Commission claims (Statement of Objections) that Google breached EU antitrust rules--
Google and Shopping video (above) published August 27, 2015 - "Since Google was founded, we have worked to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for. We have a simple belief: focus on the user, and all else will follow. This is at the heart of how we show products in Search, in which we show users the most relevant results by working directly with merchants to present accurate specs, trustworthy reviews, competitive prices and the quickest means of purchase. While technology and behaviors may evolve and change, our focus on the user will always remain the same."
"Google has always worked to improve its services, creating new ways to provide better answers and show more useful ads. We’ve taken seriously the concerns in the European Commission’s Statement of Objections (SO) that our innovations are anti-competitive. The response we filed today shows why we believe those allegations are incorrect, and why we believe that Google increases choice for European consumers and offers valuable opportunities for businesses of all sizes ... Our response provides evidence and data to show why the SO’s concerns are unfounded. We use traffic analysis to rebut claims that our ad displays and specialized organic results harmed competition by preventing shopping aggregators from reaching consumers. Economic data spanning more than a decade, an array of documents, and statements from complainants all confirm that product search is robustly competitive. And we show why the SO is incorrect in failing to consider the impact of major shopping services like Amazon and eBay, who are the largest players in this space ... Moreover, the ways people search for, compare, and buy products are rapidly evolving. Users on desktop and mobile devices often want to go straight to trusted merchants who have established an online presence. These kinds of developments reflect a dynamic and competitive industry, where companies are continuing to evolve their business models and online and offline markets are converging..." -- Kent Walker, Google SVP & General Counsel, Google Europe Blog: Improving quality isn’t anti-competitive
European Commission - Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping service; opens separate formal investigation on Android: "Brussels, 15 April 2015: The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to Google alleging the company has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages. The Commission's preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers. Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. The Commission has also formally opened a separate antitrust investigation into Google's conduct as regards the mobile operating system Android. The investigation will focus on whether Google has entered into anti-competitive agreements or abused a possible dominant position in the field of operating systems, applications and services for smart mobile devices. EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: "The Commission's objective is to apply EU antitrust rules to ensure that companies operating in Europe, wherever they may be based, do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation". "In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary. However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe." "I have also launched a formal antitrust investigation of Google’s conduct concerning mobile operating systems, apps and services. Smartphones, tablets and similar devices play an increasing role in many people's daily lives and I want to make sure the markets in this area can flourish without anticompetitive constraints imposed by any company.""
For further information:
- Competition - European Commission: "39740 Google Search"
- Competition - European Commission: "40099 Google Android"