Google Antitrust Charges: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

The EU antitrust charges against Google will be news for some time so start with the the primary sources.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager

First, the official press release from the European Commission: Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping service; opens separate formal investigation on Android, which reads in part:

The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to Google alleging the company has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages. The Commission’s preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers. Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: “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.

In the first paragraph, “Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome….” and by the fourth paragraph, “…Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary.”???

That sounds remarkably like “guilty until proven innocent” to me. You?

Can you imagine a judge in a US antitrust trial telling the defendant:

“We are going to have a fair trial and you will have to opportunity to convince me your’re not guilty.”

It’s unfortunate that vendors continue to use the EU as a pawn in efforts to compete other vendors. It just encourages the EU, with its admittedly Euro-centric view of the world, to attempt to manage activities best left un-managed. Yes, Google is the world leader in search, if you think indexing 5% of the web constitutes leadership. A “leader” that is still wedded to its lemming (page-rank) based ranking algorithm.

Apparently the EU hasn’t noticed that raw search data is now easily available for potential competitors to Google. (You know it as Common Crawl Link is to a series of my posts on Common Crawl.) The EU is unaware of the ongoing revolution in deep learning, which will make lemming-based ranking passé. (Yes, Google has contributed heavily to that research but research isn’t criminal, at least not yet.) And the very technology for performing Internet searches may be about to change (Darpa/Memex).

Does Google dominate the ad-supported, users-as-end-product, search market? Sure, if you don’t like that, why not create a search service that returns one (1) result, the one that I am looking for? No ads, no selling my information, just returning one useful result. Given the time wasted in a day scrolling through some search engine results, do you see a market for that among professionals?

If I search for pizza, given my IP address and order history, there is only one result that needs to show up. With the number highlighted for calling. Think about all the one result searches you need in a day, week, month. I suppose that doesn’t work for dating services but no one search solution will fit all use cases. Entirely different market from Google, paid for by vendors.

Source documents for your topic map:

Antitrust: Commission probes allegations of antitrust violations by Google (2010)

Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping service (April 15, 2015)

Antitrust: Commission opens formal investigation against Google in relation to Android mobile operating system

Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 of 16 December 2002 on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty (Text with EEA relevance) (in English, as of today) The canonical link: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32003R0001.

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