November 28, 2019

A group of 41 European price-comparison shopping sites say Google is in breach of an antitrust agreement it reached with the European Union back in 2017.

Google was fined a record €2.4B (then $2.7B) after a 7-year investigation which concluded that Google unfairly favored its own Shopping results against those from other price-comparison sites …

Background

The ruling was made following an analysis of 1.7 billion searches.

The EC found that Google Shopping (and its earlier incarnations) always appeared at or close to the top of product search results, while the highest-ranked competitor service typically appeared on page 4. It ruled that this was an abuse of Google’s dominant position in search.

“Google has abused this market dominance by giving its own comparison shopping service an illegal advantage. It gave prominent placement in its search results only to its own comparison shopping service, whilst demoting rival services. It stifled competition on the merits in comparison shopping markets.”

The commission presented evidence that Google’s promotion of its own shopping comparison service – featuring paid advertisers – increased by up to 45-fold, while traffic to competitor sites dropped by up to 92%. These findings were based on a seven-year investigation which examined around 1.7 billion search queries.

In addition to the record fine, Google had to agree to rectify the bias in its search results within 90 days, or face further fines.

Google is in breach, say rivals

The group of rival price-comparison sites say that, more than two years after that deadline expired, Google is still in breach of that agreement.

Reuters reports.

Forty-one European price-comparison shopping services on Thursday urged EU antitrust regulators to act against Alphabet Inc’s Google for allegedly flouting an order to allow rivals to compete on equal terms, which they said is endangering their existence […]

The signatories to the letter are from 21 EU countries, [and include] Idealo, Europe’s second largest price comparison shopping service and part of publishing group Axel Springer, Polish No. 1 Ceneo, Britain’s Kelkoo, and Foundem and Heureka in the Czech Republic.

“We are approaching you (Vestager) because companies like ours are endangered by Google, which is artfully avoiding compliance with the law,” the companies (CSS) said.

The companies say that it isn’t just their companies that are harmed. A Grant Thornton study found that prices shown on Google Shopping were on average higher than those available through rival price comparison sites, meaning that consumers too are being unfairly treated.

We’ll doubtless be hearing from European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in the next few days.

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Photo: Shutterstock


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