What Is at the Heart of Complaint Against Google?

At the heart of the European Commission’s antitrust complaint against Google is the search giant’s alleged practice of highlighting its own shopping services in response to search queries, ahead of links to similar services run by rivals. Such “search bias” is important because more than 90 percent of Internet searches in Europe are conducted on Google. Given that dominance, promoting its own services while demoting others may be illegal under EU law, some attorneys say. “Search bias is a logical focus for the EU because its competition law is concerned about fair and open market access along with consumers’ interests,” said Eleanor Fox, an expert on European antitrust law at New York University.

Google sent a memo to employees saying it has a “very strong case,” in part because its search engine provides quicker, more direct answers to queries, saving consumers time. The company also highlighted competition from other search services, like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, as well as specialized services from Amazon, eBay and others. Rivals who run other comparison-shopping sites, as well as Google rivals in other “vertical” areas such as travel, maps and local services say Google has bolstered its own offerings in those areas, and directs users to its services, ahead of links to others. The European Commission said Google gives “systematic favourable treatment” to its shopping service, Google Shopping, in its general search results. That may artificially divert traffic from rival comparison shopping services and hinder their ability to compete, it argued.


What Is at the Heart of Complaint Against Google?