Google still sees ‘another side’ to its latest EU antitrust story

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European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager confirmed today that Google’s usage of its Google Shopping links in search results “is illegal under EU antitrust rules.” Imposing a record-breaking fine of €2.4 billion on the search giant, Vestager claimed the company has “abused its market dominance” to favour its own interests. The dispute centres on the “Google Shopping” product comparison boxes that appear at the top of search results. When you search for an item to buy, Google automatically displays relevant products from several different retailers. The details include a photo of the item and its name, rating and price. READ MORE:Chernobyl’s radiation monitoring hit by cyberattack The European Commission has concluded that this built-in price comparison function is predatory and likely to negatively impact other comparison sites. It believes consumers have been let down by Google’s search dominance as products from its price comparison service appear at the top of search. In its response to the ruling, Google maintained that the current form of Google Shopping is what most customers actually want to see. It claimed it has data that shows people “prefer links that take them directly to the products they want.” Usually, customers aren’t looking to use a price comparison site and then repeat their search.

The Google Shopping links at the heart of the ruling

The Google Shopping links at the heart of the ruling

The company reiterated its former statements that mega-retailers like Amazon and eBay remain the first destination for most online searches. The built-in comparison tools covering thousands of retailers on these sites have led consumers to expect to be able to shop from a single search. Google suggested that the decline in price comparison sites isn’t so much due to its search results as the changing trends in how – and where – people buy online. “With its comparison tools, reviews, millions of retailers, and vast range of products from sneakers to groceries, Amazon is a formidable competitor and has become the first port of call for product searches,” claimed Google. “And as Amazon has grown, it’s natural that some comparison services have proved less popular than others. We compete with Amazon and other sites for shopping-related searches by showing ever more useful product information.” Google still considers itself to have a strong case against the EC and said it will “respectfully disagree” with the verdict announced today. It confirmed it will “consider” an appeal. Vestager has given Google a three-month grace period to update Google Shopping to comply with European antitrust rules. She stopped short of stating how this should be achieved, leaving it up to Google to decide what remedial work should be made. If Google refuses to comply, the EC could decide to impose a fine of up to 5% of parent company Alphabet’s average daily global revenue. Vestager has also stated that today’s ruling is likely to act as a precedent for the other pending antitrust investigations against Google. These include the pre-installation of the company’s app portfolio on Android phones, something the EC believes influences Android customers into using Google’s other services.