Google has responded to the European commission’s (EC) renewed statement of objections, declaring its case against Google Shopping to be “wrong on the facts, the law, and the economics” and dismissing it as just “the interests of a small number of websites”.
The seven-year case revolves around the charge that the market dominance of Google within search is being used to leverage its price comparison service to the detriment of third-party sites.
Within its second 100-page response to the EC, Google said that its Shopping service, which appears as a tab within search results and within adverts at the top of the page, was simply the result of its push to present users with useful information and direct answers to questions.
It also said that the exclusion of retailers such as Amazon and eBay from the case was wrong, as they compete with price comparison sites also, despite paying for referral traffic.
Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, said: “Consumers don’t just look for products on a search engine, then click on a price comparison site, and then click again to visit merchant sites. They reach merchant websites in many different ways: via general search engines, specialist search services, merchant platforms, social-media sites, and online ads served by various companies.
“And of course merchants are reaching consumers directly like never before. On the mobile web – and more than half of Europe’s Internet traffic is mobile these days – dedicated apps are the most common way for consumers to shop.”
Adjoining the EC’s updated charges, European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said the commission’s preliminary investigation into Google Shopping revealed that Google had “unduly favoured its own comparison shopping service in its general search result pages”, meaning that “consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries”.
A Google spokesperson said: “We remain confident that these claims lack evidence and are wrong on the facts, the law, and the economics. The surest signs of dynamic competition in any market are low prices, abundant choices, and constant innovation — and that’s a great description of shopping on the internet today.”
Google also responded to the charges made against its advertising services, Adsense for Search, which places contextual, text-based ads near and around search results.
A Google spokesperson said: “Our text ads help websites generate income and have always faced strong competition from other ad formats, so we disagree with the Commission’s assessment. Nevertheless, even before the Statement of Objections was filed, we changed practices the Commission takes issue with, so we hope to resolve this case quickly.”
The EC originally filed charges in April 2015, receiving a response from Google later that year. New, reinforcing charges in the Google Shopping case were then filed by the EC in July this year, which also included charges against Adsense.
Google is also facing antitrust charges against its Android mobile operating system, which runs on the majority of smartphones globally. It has until 11 November to respond in the Android case, but faces fines of up to 10% of its global turnover.
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