European Commission charges Google with multiple antitrust violations

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2015
Search giant Google has run once again into the welcoming embrace of European regulators, finding itself in the European Commission's crosshairs over allegations that it favors its own services unfairly with Android and web search products.




The European Commission will investigate whether Google's policy of forcing smartphone and tablet manufacturers to agree to strict licensing terms in exchange for the ability to bundle Google services --?like Gmail or Google Now --?with their Android devices has "illegally hindered the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems, mobile communication applications and services in the European Economic Area (EEA)."

Specifically, the commission has reason to believe that Google may have used its market position to require or incentivize manufacturers to use Google's services exclusively, rather than turning to local alternatives. The commission will also investigate whether Google has prevented the development and marketing of non-Google-approved Android forks.

These proceedings are similar, though not identical, to charges leveled by the commission against Microsoft in 2009 over the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows.

In a separate case, the commission will determine whether Google's web search practices favored its own comparison shopping services over others. The company could have done this by "showing Google Shopping more prominently on the screen," thereby decreasing traffic that may have gone to competitors.

The commission wrote that it is "concerned that users do not necessarily see the most relevant results in response to queries - this is to the detriment of consumers, and stifles innovation."

The full statement by EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager is below.
The Commission's objective is to apply EU antitrust rules to ensure that companies operating in Europe, wherever they may be based, do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation.

In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules. 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.

I have also launched a formal antitrust investigation of Google's conduct concerning mobile operating systems, apps and services. Smartphones, tablets and similar devices play an increasing role in many people's daily lives and I want to make sure the markets in this area can flourish without anticompetitive constraints imposed by any company.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 48
    kpluckkpluck Posts: 500member
    The latest shake down of a company by the EU. While I know it will never happen, I wish these companies would just give the EU a big FU and pull out of their markets. It is the only way this BS will change.

    -kpluck
  • Reply 2 of 48
    markbyrnmarkbyrn Posts: 646member
    Quoting Google's 'philosophy' statement, "Android brings the openness that shaped the Internet to the mobile world." and "You can make money without doing evil." I think when this case is over and done, we'll have to put such lofty & dubious sentiments to rest.
  • Reply 3 of 48
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,005member
    We know how this will end, Ask Microsoft how well they did with forcing IE into every computer. The EU rule against them and look what you have today. IE went form 90% share to 20% today.
  • Reply 4 of 48
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,866member
    Hopefully it will result in more than a lame fine.
  • Reply 5 of 48
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,005member
    kpluck wrote: »
    The latest shake down of a company by the EU. While I know it will never happen, I wish these companies would just give the EU a big FU and pull out of their markets. It is the only way this BS will change.

    -kpluck

    I guess you enjoy consuming what you are being forced feed by a company who thinks they know what is best for you. Not saying any government solution is any better.
  • Reply 6 of 48
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,528member
    jungmark wrote: »
    Hopefully it will result in more than a lame fine.

    It will result in a series of gatorguy posts.
  • Reply 7 of 48
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    maestro64 wrote: »
    I guess you enjoy consuming what you are being forced feed by a company who thinks they know what is best for you. Not saying any government solution is any better.

    Except that's not the case. People could choose to buy a "feature phone" instead, or even an iPhone (shocker).
  • Reply 8 of 48
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post



    We know how this will end, Ask Microsoft how well they did with forcing IE into every computer. The EU rule against them and look what you have today. IE went form 90% share to 20% today.

     

    This has nothing to do with marketshare.

     

    If you want one Google Service on your Android phone, you need to have them all.  Someone can't fork Android, keep other Google services, but put their own Mapping product on there.  

     

    Android is not a monopoly, and not accused of being one.  

  • Reply 9 of 48

    I wonder why there hasn't been a similar charge here in the US. Despite the fact that the FTC found:

     

    Quote:


     

    Google typically ranks sites based on metrics like the number of links that point to a site and how often users click on those links. But at times the company boosted links to its own properties even when rival services might have better served its users, according to the report.

    If a comparison shopping site from a competitor should have ranked highest, for instance, Google Shopping was sometimes placed above it. And when Yelp was deemed a more relevant result, Google Local would appear on top, the FTC staff wrote.

    Google also copied, or “scraped,” content from rivals such as TripAdvisor and Amazon.com, and threatened to remove those sites from its search listing if they objected, the Journal reported. In one instance, Google used Amazon’s sales rankings to determine how it ranked products for its own listings, it said.

    In so doing, Google sent a message that it would “use its monopoly power over search to extract the fruits of its rivals’ innovations,” the FTC staff wrote.



     

    Perhaps because of this?:

  • Reply 10 of 48
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,352member

    As much as I despise Google...

     

    "concerned that users do not necessarily see the most relevant results in response to queries - this is to the detriment of consumers, and stifles innovation." because "showing Google Shopping more prominently on the screen"...

     

    ?Two words... SCROLL DOWN.  Holy crap, these government agencies must believe that citizens are complete, bumbling idiots who may accidentally confuse an ad from actual results... and then accidentally make a purchase on a site they didn't want to. Give me a freaking break. If you don't want to use Google then DON'T.  Just use another search engine.

  • Reply 11 of 48
    This doesn't make any sense. Doesn't google make almost no money from Android? I heard they were break even at best, even if you include Google Play and advertising.

    How can you sue an free, non-profitable operating system? This is nothing like microsoft.
  • Reply 12 of 48
    kpluckkpluck Posts: 500member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post





    I guess you enjoy consuming what you are being forced feed by a company who thinks they know what is best for you. Not saying any government solution is any better.

    We are talking about Google still right? Not Apple? If a private company does something I don't like I stop using their products.

     

    I am free to use any product I want for search, phones, web browsing, etc. I am not forced to use their products and at such time that I find their services and policies problematic, I will switch. They can't "force feed" me anything. However, the Government can. They can enact rules that I can't escape. How is it you get this so backwards?

     

    This is just SOP for the EU. Find a company with a bunch of cash (preferably a company outside the EU) find them guilty of some wrong doing by insane socialist standards them tell them to pay up. The amount of garbage coming out of the EU is crazy, the sooner we stop their economic cancer the better.

     

    -kpluck 

  • Reply 13 of 48
    rayzrayz Posts: 814member

    Yeah, I know it's Google, but this is still yet another case of EU extortion. 

     

    And once they're done with Google, they'll start on Apple's coffers.

  • Reply 14 of 48
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,454member

    Far be it from me to be defending Google but if this is what the New World Order is going to be like then I’m against it. There’s a difference between fostering competition and manufacturing it artificially just to be “fair.” Google reached the position it’s in by being the best search engine ever invented. The rest, including Bing and Yahoo, have come and gone because they can’t hold a candle to Google’s algorithms. And if they can come after Google for this then they can come for Apple too.

  • Reply 15 of 48
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by kpluck View Post

     

    The amount of garbage coming out of the EU is crazy, the sooner we stop their economic cancer the better.


     

    If you want to do business there, you have to play by their rules. A lot of people don't like the US patent system (and think the European one is superior), but if companies want to do business in the US they abide by US rules.

     

    No point in complaining about it. Unless you think that every country in the world should align their laws so that everything from patents to copyright to antitrust to taxes is the same no matter where you go.

     

     

    However, I was surprised by this. When I read the headline I fully expected this to be about their search business, not Android/mobile. Though it must really upset the people who trumpet "Android is free and open" when it clearly is not.

  • Reply 16 of 48
    syrransyrran Posts: 42member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post



    We know how this will end, Ask Microsoft how well they did with forcing IE into every computer. The EU rule against them and look what you have today. IE went form 90% share to 20% today.

    That happened because IE is now a terrible browser.  Not sure precisely why but it seems to me a combination of other browsers getting better while the IE code base is old resulting in the browser being barely functional.  This is why MS is releasing a totally new browser, Spartan. 

  • Reply 17 of 48
    syrransyrran Posts: 42member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jkichline View Post

     

    As much as I despise Google...

     

    "concerned that users do not necessarily see the most relevant results in response to queries - this is to the detriment of consumers, and stifles innovation." because "showing Google Shopping more prominently on the screen"...

     

    ?Two words... SCROLL DOWN.  Holy crap, these government agencies must believe that citizens are complete, bumbling idiots who may accidentally confuse an ad from actual results... and then accidentally make a purchase on a site they didn't want to. Give me a freaking break. If you don't want to use Google then DON'T.  Just use another search engine.


    That's why they call it the "nanny state".

  • Reply 18 of 48
    dickprinterdickprinter Posts: 1,060member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jkichline View Post

     

    As much as I despise Google...

     

    "concerned that users do not necessarily see the most relevant results in response to queries - this is to the detriment of consumers, and stifles innovation." because "showing Google Shopping more prominently on the screen"...

     

    ?Two words... SCROLL DOWN.  Holy crap, these government agencies must believe that citizens are complete, bumbling idiots who may accidentally confuse an ad from actual results... and then accidentally make a purchase on a site they didn't want to. Give me a freaking break. If you don't want to use Google then DON'T.  Just use another search engine.


    You are assuming that most users are as tech savvy as you are. The fact of the matter is most users do not know how to change their default search and most don't know the difference between Google ad search results and actual, unpersuaded search results. The fact that Google ad search results appear more prominently means an unsuspecting user will more likely choose that one. I believe this is a major EU sticking point.

  • Reply 19 of 48
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,165member
    lkrupp wrote: »
    Far be it from me to be defending Google but if this is what the New World Order is going to be like then I’m against it. There’s a difference between fostering competition and manufacturing it artificially just to be “fair.” Google reached the position it’s in by being the best search engine ever invented. The rest, including Bing and Yahoo, have come and gone because they can’t hold a candle to Google’s algorithms. And if they can come after Google for this then they can come for Apple too.

    There's probably very few here that remember some EU investigations of Apple practices in Europe that are apparently still going on. The iTunes one was closed but terms that Apple requires of telcos that want to sell iPhones is still being looked into for possible unfair competition charges AFAIK. Another is Apple's music business and possible unfair agreements with content providers. A couple years back it was books and a settlement with the EU, unlike their choice to fight it in the US. The EU is MUCH more difficult for the US techs to deal with.
  • Reply 20 of 48
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

     

    However, I was surprised by this. When I read the headline I fully expected this to be about their search business, not Android/mobile. Though it must really upset the people who trumpet "Android is free and open" when it clearly is not.


    Actually, I think it's about both.

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