EU Competition Commissioner Issues Statement of Objections to Google

BY Heather Greenfield
April 15, 2015

Brussels – Today, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced that the European Commission has issued a statement of objections in the Google competition investigation.  The Commission’s preliminary case focuses on the functioning of Google’s shopping results. Furthermore, Ms. Vestager also announced the opening of a separate official investigation of Google’s Android operating system.

The announcement of a formal legal proceeding comes after more than five years of investigation. In that time, the Commission — under Ms. Vestager’s predecessor — eventually rejected an unprecedented three proposed settlements after political pressure was exerted on EU competition regulators by Google’s rivals, critical member states and Commissioners with responsibilities unrelated to competition investigations.

A formal Statement of Objections is the first step of the legal process. It lays out the Commission’s initial arguments and gives the company a chance to respond.  Google will have 10 weeks to prepare its response, and the opportunity to call a hearing in which it can give its defense.  As Commissioner Vestager set out today, the Commission can — and often does — amend charges or move to settle cases in response to the SO process.  Furthermore,  companies can appeal any eventual decision in European courts.

The following is the statement of James Waterworth, CCIA VP and Head of CCIA Europe:

“Competition online has never been as robust as it is today.  With the Internet’s global reach, open standards, and rapidly declining prices in hardware, software, and cloud computing tools, it has never been easier to start a national or global online business.  In the five years since the Commission opened its investigation of Google, consumers have more choices in how they navigate the Internet and find information.  The rise of social networks, mobile apps and voice search tools — like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Echo — that help users explore the web illustrates that competition is driving innovation.  Consumers are the primary beneficiary of this dynamic. This is not a characteristic of a stagnant market dominated by any single entity.

“The mobile Internet ecosystem, and apps in particular, have only increased competition for major Internet companies.  Consumers now access TripAdvisor, Twenga and Idealo directly through mobile apps, further minimizing the role of traditional Internet search.”

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