EC Issues Record Fine In Google Shopping Case; CCIA Concerned About Chilling Effect On Innovation

BY Heather Greenfield
June 27, 2017

Brussels, BELGIUM — The European Commission announced a record fine today. Its antitrust investigation began seven years ago after some online price comparison sites complained Google favored its own service in search results. Today the Commission decided that the prominent placement of Google’s own comparison shopping service in search results constitutes abuse of a dominant position. It demands Google give ‘equal treatment’ to rival comparison shopping services.

If Google appeals the Decision, it will be up to the European Court of Justice to determine whether the Commission was correct in ignoring a broader view of the online shopping market in reaching its findings.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has advocated for competitive markets and voiced opinions on tech industry competition issues since 1972, and Google is now a member of the trade association.

The following can be attributed to CCIA Europe Director Jakob Kucharczyk:

“The Commission’s Decision marks a worrying step away from the key objectives of competition law enforcement. Companies should not be punished for introducing innovative products that consumers and advertisers value. Providing direct answers to users’ search queries is unquestionably a product improvement. All major search engines do it. Courts and competition authorities around the globe have found that there are procompetitive justifications for such product improvements.”

“It seems the Commission’s case is mainly focused on competitors who disagree with Google competing on the merits. We fail to see the evidence for consumer harm and for quality-related product degradation. If the result of this investigation is to force Google to undo more than ten years of search engine evolution, EU competition enforcement would clearly not live up to its promise of spurring innovation.”

“Leaving aside the Commission’s very narrow market definitions, Europe’s e-commerce sector is thriving. The success of companies like Zalando, Asos or Trivago show consumers have increasing choices to find, compare and buy products online. Investments into e-commerce ventures have steadily increased. All of that is not indicative of a market suppressed by a dominant player.”

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