More than 40 Google rivals in Europe penned a letter to the European Commissioners for Competition and the Internal Market, Margrethe Vestager and Thierry Breton, respectively, asking the EU officials to enforce measures against Google’s dominant practices of self-preference on general search results pages.
1. Google’s Shopping Unit
The plea comes less than one year after a long legal battle in which Google lost its appeal against a €2.42 billion antitrust fine imposed by the European Commission, in 2017, in relation to its shopping service. Now, the signatories of the joint statement are arguing that under EU competition legislation, namely the recently adopted Digital Markets Act (DMA), which will apply in May next year, Google is infringing the law, again. The DMA includes specific bans or limits on Google, Apple and other gatekeepers from promoting their own services on platforms.
“Google’s prominent embedding of Shopping Units is a prima facie infringement of the DMA’s ban on self-preferencing,” the signatories said. The 43 comparison shopping services (CCS) — including idealo, kaina24, PriceRunner — asked the Commission to re-open space on general search results pages for the most relevant providers, by removing Google’s Shopping Units that allow no competition, leading to higher prices and less choice for consumers while transferring profit margins from merchants and competing CSSs to Google.
2. Comparison shopping services
A CSS is a website that allows consumers to search for and compare products over by multiple retailers which play a role in the e-commerce businesses environment. “Having suffered first-hand from Google’s failure to ensure equal treatment within general search results pages, we have been requesting formal steps against Google’s non-compliance with the Google Search (Shopping) decision since 2017,” reads the letter as its signatories maintain that recent developments have only increased their concerns and strengthened their arguments.
“We strongly support the view of the more than 40 companies that have come together to stress the need to put an end to Google’s self-preferencing practices in Search,” the eu travel tech membership association stated noting that the recent court ruling in the “Google Shopping” case and the DMA provide a solid basis for the EU executive to take action.
3. Google’s anti-trust saga
Googles’ practices have been questioned since November 2010, when the British price comparison site Foudem, the French legal search engine EJustice and the Microsoft owned Ciao! complained that Google’s conduct was putting competitors at a disadvantage in the way that it was structuring its search results and the way that its algorithms worked. These claims prompted the Commission to investigate Google’s algorithm reaching the conclusion that the tech giant was violating competition practices.