EU files formal antitrust complaint against Google, begins separate Android investigation. Google responds

google

As expected, the EU has formally accused Google of abusing its dominant position in search to favor links to its own products over those offered by competitors. The complaint takes the form of a Statement of Objections: a formal method of announcing that it believes Google has acted illegally and that a full investigation is underway.

The Commission’s preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers. EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that “Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary. However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.”

Google has not wasted any time in attempting to convince the Commission otherwise, arguing in a blog post that the evidence shows that Google has not harmed traffic to competitor websites …  Read more

Google expected to face formal European antitrust charges tomorrow

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Update: the EU Commission has now filed its complaint

It doesn’t sound good for Google in Europe where the company has faced continued criticism, some comical and some less so, for using its dominant 90+% search share to give advantages to its other properties and squash competitors. FT:

Google will on Wednesday be accused by Brussels of illegally abusing its dominance of the internet search market in Europe, a step that ultimately could force it to change its business model fundamentally and pay hefty fines. Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, is to say that the US group will soon be served with a formal charge sheet alleging that it breached antitrust rules by diverting traffic from rivals to favour its own services, according to two people familiar with the case.

The NYTimes:

Europe’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, is expected to make an announcement that Google has abused its dominant position on Wednesday in Brussels, according to two people who spoke on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity…

“The E.U. competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, will decide what steps they want to go,” Günther Oettinger, a German politician who is charge of Europe’s digital economy, told Die Welt am Sonntag, a German newspaper, on Sunday. “I think that they will be far-reaching.”

Google has yet to comment on the matter but if Google fails to rebut any formal charges, Ms. Vestager could “levy a huge fine that could go above 6 billion euros, or $6.4 billion, amounting to about 10 percent of Google’s most recent annual revenue”.

Google stock is off 2 points today.

Image via TNW

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Report: EU preparing to file antitrust charges against Google

File photo shows people walking by a YouTube sign at the new Google office in Toronto

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, the European Commission is preparing to file antitrust charges against Google. The charges come after a five-year long investigation that’s stalled three times and caused strong political divides in Europe.

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Yelp, TripAdvisor, others team up against Google in new “Focus on the User” campaign

focus on the user

Google has long been the subject of antitrust complains and investigations in Europe, but now, some of the company’s competitors are starting to take note of its actions and step forward with their own issues. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and several other companies on Monday teamed up to launch a new website, Focus on the User, on which they express concerns regarding Google’s tendency to promote its own services at the expensive of its rivals. Which in turn, the companies argue, make it harder for customers to find Google’s competitors in results.

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News Corp. publicly blasts Google, asks EU to reconsider antitrust settlement

Google-offices-1

News Corp. recently issued a letter to the European Union blasting Google’s search and advertising practices. The correspondence also requested that the EU enforce stricter policies against the software company. News Corp. chief executive Robert Thomson wrote that Google was “willing to exploit its dominant market position to stifle competition.”

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Google to stop calling games with in-app purchases free after pressure from EU

Google Personal Search

Following pressure from the European Commission, Google has announced that it is making changes to how it brands and advertises apps with in-app purchases on the Play Store. This comes after the EU accusing Apple of taking too long to change its in-app purchase policy.

Google says that it will no longer use the word “free” when advertising games that support in-app purchases. It will also work to come up with guidelines for games and developers to prevent them from encouraging children to buy items using in-app purchases. Finally,  Google will also implement measures to monitor for breaches of European Union Law. Google plans to implement all of these changes starting at the end of September.

Meanwhile, the EU criticized Apple and said that it has “regrettably” not provided any changes or a timetable for changes to change their “misleading” in-app purchase measures.

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Google finally settles EU anti-trust case, agrees to give equal prominence to rival services

Photo: npr.org

Photo: npr.org

After more than three years of investigations and negotiations, Google and the European Union anti-trust authorities have finally settled the case in which the company was accused of abusing its dominant position in search.

The tl;dr version of the dispute was that Google search results were giving undue prominence to its own services – such as Google News and Google Shopping – and freezing out rivals. Google was eventually given a deadline of 31st January last year to submit proposals on how it would resolve the problem …  Read more

European anti-trust case against Google likely to end after fresh proposals

plenary

The European Union’s long-running anti-trust case against Google, in which the search company was accused of using its dominant position in search to stifle competition, looks set to finally be resolved – though we may have to wait until Spring to learn the details.

Reuters reports that Google has made new proposals, which the EU suggests is likely to lead to a settlement.

Joaquin Almunia told lawmakers in the European Parliament he believed the new offer made it easier to see Google’s rivals when making an internet search.

“We have reached a key moment in this case,” Almunia said.

“Now with the significant improvements on the table I think we have the possibility to work again.

“If our investigation of this improved proposal is satisfactory then we will continue the commitments route and end up with a formal decision next spring,” he said, adding: “I think that the settlement route remains the best choice” …  Read more

Streetmap sues Google for favoring Google Maps over competitors in search results

Google-Maps-Search-results-StreetmapsAccording to Bloomberg, U.K. based internet map provider Streetmap is suing Google over allegedly favoring its own maps to those of competitors. Streepmap is claiming that it’s harder to find their maps (and other competitors) in a Google search than it is to find Google Maps. Streetmaps is calling the issue a “cynical manipulation” by Google and is calling for a change in the way Google displays map related search results:

“We have had to take this action in an effort to protect our business and attract attention to those that, like us, have started their own technology businesses, only to find them damaged by Google’s cynical manipulation of search results,” Kate Sutton, commercial director of Streetmap, said in the statement.

The lawsuit mirrors complaints at the heart of the EU’s current investigation into whether or not Google’s abuses its search dominance to favor its own services over competitors within search results and elsewhere. Earlier today we reported that Google had handed in a formal offer of concessions to the European Commission related to the investigation, but there is no word yet on exactly Google’s settlement offer includes… Read more

Google’s VP counters anti-competitive allegations from Nextag CEO

Google attempted to “set the record straight” today with a blog post aimed to dismantle rising anti-competitive claims against the world’s leading search engine.

The Wall Street Journal published a scathing post yesterday—penned by the CEO of online retailer Nextag—that essentially painted Google as a monopoly. No—Jeff Katz did not paint; he declared:

Google has enjoyed this unrivaled position for nearly a decade. It is the most popular search engine in the world, controlling nearly 82% of the global search market and 98% of the mobile search market. Its annual revenue is larger than the economies of the world’s 28 poorest countries combined. And its closest competitor, Bing, is so far behind in both market share and revenue that Google has become, effectively, a monopoly.

The company has used its position to bend the rules to help maintain its online supremacy, including the use of sophisticated algorithms weighted in favor of its own products and services at the expense of search results that are truly most relevant. […]

At my company, Nextag, a comparison shopping site for products and services, we regularly analyze the level of search traffic we get from Google. It’s easy to see when Google makes changes to its algorithms that effectively punish its competitors, including us. Our data, which we shared with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 21, 2011, shows without a doubt that Google has stacked the deck. And as a result, it has shifted from a true search site into a commerce site—a commerce site whose search algorithm favors products and services from Google and those from companies able to spend the most on advertising.

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Report: Google files European Commission complaint, claims Microsoft and Nokia are ‘colluding’

(via Phandroid)

Google claimed in a formal complaint with the European Commission recently that Microsoft and Nokia conspired to use their patents against competitors.

“Nokia and Microsoft are colluding to raise the costs of mobile devices for consumers, creating patent trolls that side-step promises both companies have made,” said Google in a statement to The Wall Street Journal, while Microsoft deemed the search engine’s filing as a “desperate tactic.”

According to the filing, Microsoft and Nokia entered agreements that allow Mosaid Technologies Inc. to legally enforce patents and share the outcome’s revenue. Reuters further specified that the two collaborating companies moved 1,200 patents to Mosaid.

Google called Mosaid a “patent troll” for holding patents and litigating hawkishly, and then it described its filing as a “pre-emptive measure against a developing legal hazard for Android partners.” In a nutshell: Google’s “legal hazard” concerns if smartphone manufacturers begin to view Android as a legal danger, they may decide to do business with Microsoft and Nokia instead.

“Google is complaining about antitrust in the smartphone industry when it controls more than 95 percent of mobile search and advertising,” added Microsoft in an emailed statement to The Wall Street Journal.

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