European Commission, Google Antitrust Cases, Beginning of the End?

"Government” is a bad word in the United States, the lackeys of the corporations have branded it so. As a result, most corporate behavior proceeds unchecked, no matter how nefarious. But not in Europe." --Bob Lefsetz (Lefsetz Letter, infra)

European Commission - Press release - 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...."

You can read the Google response here: Official Google Blog: The Search for Harm: ".... we respectfully but strongly disagree with the need to issue a Statement of Objections and look forward to making our case over the weeks ahead. "-- Amit Singhal, Senior Vice President, Google Search

Best commentary on all this so far? Blogger Bob Lefsetz: Google Antitrust Case - Lefsetz Letter:

"It’s the beginning of the end. Once someone starts investigating you for the sins of the past, your future is screwed. Google is in trouble... Google’s money machine depends on desktop search, it doesn’t work on mobile, on mobile the app rules, Facebook is the king of mobile search, that’s why their stock is going up. Google got greedy... Google isn’t content with all that AdWords money. It’s got to mess with the results themselves... this is why the European Commission is coming down on Google... And now Google is caught up in this rearguard skirmish that is preventing them from moving forward into mobile. But mobile is next. The European Commission is investigating Android, to see if licensees are forced to install Google apps.... (read more at link above)

[Supra, emphasis added]

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