The EU handed Google a double headache today, by releasing a statement alleging that its search results were biased to illegally maintain Google’s monopoly in Europe, and by saying it had started a new probe into whether Google uses restrictive, uncompetitive agreements to sustain Android’s dominant market share of the mobile phone business.
If you want to get an idea of just how negatively the European Commission on competition sees Google right now, then skip to this section of its statement on how it believes Google handles online shopping search results. We haven’t added any emphasis here — those bold bits are from the EC itself:
- Google systematically positions and prominently displays its comparison shopping service in its general search results pages, irrespective of its merits. This conduct started in 2008.
- Google does not apply to its own comparison shopping service the system of penalties, which it applies to other comparison shopping services on the basis of defined parameters, and which can lead to the lowering of the rank in which they appear in Google’s general search results pages.
- Froogle, Google’s first comparison shopping service, did not benefit from any favourable treatment, and performed poorly.
- As a result of Google’s systematic favouring of its subsequent comparison shopping services “Google Product Search” and “Google Shopping”, both experienced higher rates of growth, to the detriment of rival comparison shopping services.
- Google’s conduct has a negative impact on consumers and innovation. It means that users do not necessarily see the most relevant comparison shopping results in response to their queries, and that incentives to innovate from rivals are lowered as they know that however good their product, they will not benefit from the same prominence as Google’s product.
As if to emphasise how reasonable it is being, the EC says that Google can fix everything really easily:
The Statement of Objections takes the preliminary view that in order to remedy the conduct, Google should treat its own comparison shopping service and those of rivals in the same way.
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