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Digital life: Is Google really not helping you shop around?

Using the internet giant's results is a good way to boost your business, but now the most-used search engine has been accused of unfair practices to promote its own price comparison services

By Katie Wright

Published 25/04/2015

Price point: Google has denied displaying its own services more prominently
Price point: Google has denied displaying its own services more prominently

The European Commission has issued a Statement of Objections about the display and ranking of Google Shopping results, accusing the search giant of displaying its own price comparison service results more prominently than those of rivals.

"I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules," commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced at a Press conference, kick-starting a case which has been dragging on for more than four years. "Google now has the opportunity to convince the commission to the contrary."

On the same day, Google published a lengthy, defensive blog post pointing out that they have successfully fended off similar allegations in the past. For instance, back in 2010 when travel companies including Expedia and Travelocity tried to prevent Google acquiring flight search company ITA by lobbying US and EU regulators, claiming that the deal would harm competition.

Five years on, business has continued to boom for those complainants, Google Search's senior vice president points out, with a graph showing traffic for their sites in Germany far outstripping Google Travel's comparatively small increases in the country.

"Any economist would say that you typically do not see a ton of innovation, new entrants or investment in sectors where competition is stagnating - or dominated by one player. Yet, that is exactly what's happening in our world," Amit Singhal writes.

He also points out that apps are now responsible for driving a large proportion of sales in the digital marketplace, so Google isn't as important as it used to be.

"While in many ways it's flattering to be described as a gatekeeper, the facts don't actually bear that out. We respectfully but strongly disagree," Singhal concludes.

And he adds: "We look forward to making our case over the weeks ahead."

It looks like they've already done their research and are itching to battle it out, but they'll face stiff competition in Vestager.

The Danish minister's predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, failed on three occasions to reach a settlement with Google.

The latest announcement signals Vestager wants to see a resolution one way or another - and if the commission succeeds, it could result in a fine for Google reaching into billions of euro.

Watch this space.

Belfast Telegraph

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