Internet giant rejects new EU anti-trust charges

The legal onslaught against Google came after a long period in which the two sides tried unsuccessfully to settle the case amicably.

US Internet giant Google on Thursday rejected new EU accusations that it illegally abuses its market dominance, in its formal reaction to anti-trust allegations by Brussels earlier this year.

Google filed objections against beefed up charges made by hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager over online shopping, and fresh charges over its advertising services.

Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel of Google, said in a blog that the shopping case "still rests on a theory that just doesn't fit the reality of how most people shop online."

"We believe these claims are wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics," Walker said.

The EU now has three cases on the go against Google, one of a series of US companies targeted by Vestager in a campaign that has raised hackles on the other side of the Atlantic.

The biggest and most recent case involves Google's Android mobile phone operating system, a serious challenge to one of the company's most strategic businesses with smartphones fast taking from over traditional PCs.

Google is expected to respond to the Android case next week.

The second and oldest case involves Google's alleged abuse of the dominance of its search engine for online shopping. It was officially lodged in 2015, and then this July Vestager strengthened the case, to which Google is now responding.

Brussels accuses Google of giving its own online shopping services top priority in search results to the detriment of other price comparison services.

Thirdly the EU accuses Google of abusing its market power in the placement of search advertising on third-party websites.

That case concerns Google's AdSense service where websites can install a customised search engine on their site which generates revenue from having relevant ads appear on the search results page.

- 'Interests of consumers' -

The European Commission, confirming it had received the response to the shopping and Adsense cases, said it "will carefully consider Google's response before taking any decision on how to proceed and cannot at this stage prejudge the final outcome of the investigation."

Instead, the cases have raised tensions between the Brussels and Washington, which has accused the EU of unfairly targeting US giants. Other EU investigations include cases against Starbucks, Amazon and McDonald's.

The European Commission, which polices EU competition policy, launched an initial investigation into Google in 2010 following complaints from rivals such as Microsoft and Trip Advisor that it favoured its own services when customers ran searches.

"We believe it is the European Commission that has the interests of consumers in mind, not a private company that makes money by using its market power to charge high prices to advertisers," said Thomas Vinje, legal counsel to FairSearch, a group that represents many of the complainants in the case.

Vestager's predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, made three attempts to resolve the dispute but in each case intense pressure by national governments, rivals and privacy advocates scuppered the effort.

Since that time, attitudes in Europe towards Google have deteriorated after revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Silicon Valley giants had provided troves of personal data to US intelligence.


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