The EU Investigates Google for Anti-Competitive Behavior

The European Union is investigating Google for antitrust violations. The focus of their investigation is in two separate areas: search and Google’s Android mobile operating system. According to a press release on the EU’s website, the EU is investigating whether Google favors its own comparison shopping service (Google Shopping) over competitive services in its general search engine. Under EU antitrust law, Google can present a formal defense against these charges before a final determination is made.

In regards to search, the EU has reached several conclusions, spelled out in a second press release. The EU notes that Google’s first comparative shopping service (Froogle) was unsuccessful. They also claim that Google favors results for Google Shopping in its general search, and that as result, Google Product Search and Google Shopping have experienced higher growth rates. This, the EU says, “has a negative impact on consumers and innovation.”

The EU is also claiming that Google is acting anti-competitively with regards to the Android OS. In particular, the EU claims that Google has hindered competition by incentivizing or requiring smartphone and tablet manufacturers to pre-install Google’s proprietary services or applications. Google is also accused of preventing manufacturers who install official versions of Androids on some of their devices from installing modified versions of Android on other devices they manufacture. Finally, the EU also claims that Google is bundling some of their applications and services to other applications and services that they distribute on Android devices.

Google has replied to the EU’s claims in a blog post titled “The Search for Harm” on the official Google Blog. The post was written by Amit Singhal, Senior VP of Google Search. In responding to the search claims, Google points out that there are more search options than ever before, including Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, Siri and Cortana. Google also states that people are using sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to find shopping recommendations. In three different graphs, one for Germany, France and the UK, Google demonstrates that other shopping sites are much more popular in the EU than Google Shopping. “It’s why we respectfully but strongly disagree with the need to issue a Statement of Objects and look forward to making our case over the weeks ahead,” the blog post concludes.

The Google has also replied to the EU’s Statement of Objections against Android in a post on Google’s Europe Blog. In the post, written by Hiroshi Lockheimer, VP of Engineering on the Android team, Google challenges the EU’s assertions that Google is acting anti-competitively with more data. They cite the Samsung S6 as a phone that comes bundled with apps not only from Google, but from Facebook and Microsoft as well. They also state, as they always do, that Google’s Android is open source and can be used by anyone; they point out that Android is not just used on phones and tablets, but also watches, TVs, cars, etc. They also responded to the EU’s claims of Google preventing manufacturers from selling forked Android devices if they sell Google Experience devices by stating that partner agreements are voluntary.

There is no time limit on the investigation, and according to the EU, “the opening of formal proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.” It is up to Google, however, to defend themselves against these charges. Google has already successfully defended itself from antitrust accusations from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2013. According to the NY Times, if the EU finds that Google is engaging in anti-competitive behavior in Europe, Google could be fined up to €6 billion.

This article was written by Joe Johaneman, a writer for dusk magazine. 

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