EU Antitrust Charges Formally Rejected by Google

Paving the way for EU regulators to rule next year on these issues and potentially impose hefty fines, Google had formally rejected European Union antitrust charges of unfairly promoting its shopping service and blocking rivals in online search advertising.

It was six years ago that an investigation was prompted by complaints from rivals such as Microsoft and a host of European and U.S. rivals against Google by the European Commission and the U.S. technology giant’s rebuttal in the shopping case came years after that investigation

The EU regulator added more evidence in July this year and had followed up with an anti-competitive charge against the company in April last year. At the same time, a separate charge sheet against its online search advertising product AdSense for Search was also issued by it.

The company’s actions were driven by its users rather than any plan to squash rivals and the accusations had no factual, legal or economic basis, Google’s general counsel Kent Walker said on a blog referring to the cases and the accusations against his client.

“We never compromised the quality or relevance of the information we displayed. On the contrary, we improved it. That isn’t ‘favoring’ – that’s listening to our customers,” Walker said.

Online advertising by companies such as Facebook and Pinterest and competition from Amazon, merchant platforms, social media sites, mobile web were not taken into account by the authorities and the commission, he said.

It had received Google’s response, The EU executive said.

“In each case, we will carefully consider Google’s response before taking any decision on how to proceed and cannot at this stage prejudge the final outcome of the investigation,” Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in an email to the media.

Michael Carrier, professor at New Jersey-based Rutgers Law School said that Google may find it difficult convincing the EU regulator with its latest arguments.

“Google has a point that its search results help consumers by allowing them to directly buy the item. But the Commission worries about the effect on rivals. This likely will outweigh the consumer point,” he said.

With an amount corresponding to its operating cost or a nominal amount based on the lowest reserve price for AdWords which is currently 0.01 euro per click, a Commission proposal which would let the company charge rivals for displaying their services prominently was rejected by Google earlier.

It had already scrapped the exclusivity clauses and other provisions identified by the regulator as anti-competitive in the advertising case, the company said.

The media reported that the charge sheet against Google states that if found guilty of breaching EU rules, hefty fines to Google is planned to be handed down to it be the Commission.

Response to a third EU charge of using its Android mobile operating system to hinder competitors would be made separately in the coming days by Google, Walker said. The Commission has given it until Nov. 11 to do so.

(Adapted from Reuters)

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