Google got an unexpected boost in its European Union antitrust case thanks to comments by a self-proclaimed competitor. EBay's chief executive, John Donahoe (pictured), told the press that his company is a “strong competitor” with Google in the online commerce space. While that may not sound like a ringing endorsement, it actually provides critical support for the argument Google is currently making to European regulators that its practices do not stifle competition.
Earlier this month, the European Commission, which is the executive body of the European Union, accused Google of breaking the European Union’s antitrust rules. The regulatory body sent Google a statement of objections outlining what it considers to be anti-competitive behavior by the search giant, specifically in the area of online sales.
Helping the Competition
In particular, the European Commission pointed to the search engine’s practice of systematically positioning and prominently displaying its comparison shopping service, Google Shopping, in its general search results pages, regardless of its merits. Doing so allows Google to take unfair advantage of its dominant position among search engines, the commission alleged.
“While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways -- and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark,” Amit Singhal, senior vice president, Google Search, wrote in a blog post about the commission’s decision.
Singhal argued that the number of competing search engines currently available, including Bing, Yahoo, and Quora, give consumers plenty of choice with regard to searching for products to buy. In addition, companies like eBay, Amazon and Expedia act as specialized search providers for goods and services. Singhal also pointed to the fact that users are increasingly turning to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for shopping recommendations.
Donahoe’s statements would seem to support Google’s interpretation. Although the European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said that Google dominates online search traffic with more than 90 percent of the European market, the company argued that this fails to take into account the role of retailers like Amazon.
Not All Rivals on Google's Side
Despite eBay’s apparent support for Google’s side of the issue, not every tech company sees things the same way. In fact, the European Commission’s case against the search giant is based on complaints from 19 different Google competitors, including Microsoft, according to a report last week in Reuters.
And although Google named both Yelp and Expedia as examples of competitors that are thriving in Europe’s online commerce space, both companies confirmed that they have made official complaints to the commission regarding Google’s behavior. Not only that, but the case is being driven mostly by complaints from U.S.-based companies, rather than European competitors, according to statements Yelp’s pubic policy director made in the press.
But even if Google’s other online shopping competitors are not as sanguine as eBay, the EU may have an uphill battle to prove its case against the search company. The commission’s antitrust investigation into Google’s shopping platform first began five years ago. The service has changed significantly since then, which may undercut many of the facts Vestager is relying on to make her case.
Posted: 2015-04-27 @ 12:46pm PT
Yelp, Yammer, Bing and Stammer. The witches are brewing up a powerful curse.
Vestager has said: 1) put it in writing on your own stationery 2) in enough detail that our tech support and Google can check it for veracity.