Google rejects new EU allegations

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Google poured scorn on European Union allegations it skewed shopping search results to favor its own services and said regulators have failed to see that the search-engine giant is competing head on with e-commerce giants Amazon.com Inc. and EBay Inc.

Google said Thursday that the EU’s allegations lack evidence and would ultimately harm users in favor “of a small number of websites,” in a blog posting detailing its response to European Commission antitrust objections over its comparison-shopping and AdSense services.

“We disagree with the European Commission’s argument that our improved Google Shopping results are harming competition,” Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel said in the blog post. “These claims are wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics.”

Four Complaints

Google faced four EU antitrust complaints since the Brussels-based regulator opened its first probe into the Mountain View, California-based company in November 2010. In a previous response, Google ridiculed as “peculiar and problematic” a first statement of objections over the way it displays search results.

The commission refined its shopping case in July, saying it has “a broad range of additional evidence and data” that the Alphabet Inc. unit systematically favors its own comparison-shopping service in its search results and that smaller rivals lose traffic when they appear lower down in results.

“The commission’s revised case still rests on a theory that just doesn’t fit the reality of how most people shop online,” Walker said in the blog. “There is simply no meaningful correlation between the evolution of our search services and the performance of price comparison sites.”

No ‘New Theory’

The extra statement of objections in the shopping case “didn’t offer a new theory, but argued that because sites like Amazon sometimes pay” price comparison aggregators “for referred traffic, they can’t also be considered rivals,” said Walker.

Google’s view is that Amazon only gets a small amount of its traffic from such services, “hardly enough to support the idea they don’t compete with price comparison sites,” he said.

“The data show that the handful of price comparison sites who’ve filed competition complaints don’t reflect the wider marketplace,” said Walker. Over the past 10 years “a rapidly increasing amount of traffic flowed from our search pages to popular sites like Amazon and eBay as they expanded in Europe, hardly a sign of our ‘favoring’ our own ads.”

AdSense Response

Walker said Google also sent its response to a separate EU complaint accusing the company of obstructing competition for online ads with its AdSense for Search product, which places advertising on websites, including retailers, telecommunications operators and newspapers.

Google has until Nov. 11 to respond to a third charge sheet the EU sent it in April over its Android smartphone software.

The company will respond to the Android antitrust complaint “in the days to come,” said Walker. While all these cases are separate, each time they “cite just a few complaints to justify broad legal claims.”