Google on April 15 strongly rebutted a formal complaint in the European Union that it has abused its market position to hurt rivals in the online search and Android marketplaces.
In two blogs, Google executives insisted the company has done no harm to others and has actually fostered more choice and innovation in some of the areas in which it competes.
"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," Senior Vice President of Google Search Amit Singhal said in one blog post. "Yet that is exactly what's happening in our world."
Earlier, the Competition Office at the European Commission, which oversees industry trade practices, announced that it had sent Google a formal Statement of Objections outlining the EU's concerns over the company's favorable treatment of its Google Shopping comparison-shopping site.
Typically, the Competition Office issues a Statement of Objections just before filing formal antitrust charges against an entity. In this case, Google has 10 weeks to respond to the complaints listed in the statement by Internet rivals.
"I will carefully consider its response before deciding how to proceed," EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. "Dominance is, as such, not a problem under EU competition law. However, dominant companies have a responsibility not to abuse their powerful market position by restricting competition, either in the market where they are dominant or in neighboring markets."
One of the main complaints in the Statement of Objections is that Google gives preferential treatment to products in its own comparison-shopping site when people use its general search engine to look for particular products. Vestager said her investigations have shown that Google's comparison-shopping site is systematically given prominence in search engine results regardless of whether the results are relevant to the query. By artificially boosting its presence in the comparison-shopping market, Google may be denying consumers the benefit of seeing the most relevant results to their queries and depriving rivals of an opportunity to put their products in front of potential customers, she said.
The Statement of Objections focuses mainly on Google Shopping because that is one area where Google has been unfairly favoring its products the longest, but that does not preclude the Commission from pursuing complaints in other areas of Google's business, Vestager said.
"If an infringement is proven, a case focusing on comparison shopping could potentially establish a broader precedent for enforcing EU competition rules in other instances of Google favoring its own services over competing services," she said.
In announcing the complaint, Vestager said her office has also opened up a second, separate investigation of Google's business practices with regard to its Android mobile operating system. She said the investigation was prompted by complaints about Google requiring smartphone and tablet manufacturers to exclusively preinstall Google's own search engine and applications on their Android devices and its tendency to bundle multiple applications and services with certain products. The Commission will also look at whether Google is keeping mobile device manufacturers from using and developing other open-source versions of Android, she said.