Google Rivals Pressure European Regulators to Charge Company

A growing group of companies is loudly pushing the EU to finally hit Google hard in connection with alleged unfair business practices. 

Google's competitors in Europe are escalating their pressure on European authorities to finally file formal antirust charges against Google after an investigation that has been going on there since November 2010.

The latest move from some of Google's rivals is a joint letter from 11 Web-based companies that was sent to the European Union, demanding real progress in the investigation.

The letter, sent to EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, asks him to formally charge Google in the case.

"The Commission opened proceedings more than two years ago, and we are becoming increasingly concerned that effective and future-proof remedies might not emerge through settlement discussions alone," stated the letter, which was signed by Shivaun Raff, co-founder and CEO of British online shopping Website Foundem, which has been helping lead the fight for EU action in the case.

The letter was also signed by leaders of five other European companies, including Streetmap, Twenga, Visual Meta, Hot Maps and Euro-Cities. It was also signed by leaders inside two U.S.-based companies, Expedia and TripAdvisor, and by directors of three German publishing associations.

The biggest issue in the case, the letter stated, is the "anti-competitive impact of search manipulation" that was allegedly performed by Google against competitors. "In addition to materially degrading the user experience and limiting consumer choice, Google's search manipulation practices lay waste to entire classes of competitors in every sector where Google chooses to deploy them."

One of the key concerns in the case was that Google promoted its own services while demoting or excluding services of competitors, the letter stated. "Any effective remedies will require explicit commitments to end both aspects; remedying one without remedying the other would simply allow Google to recalibrate the un-remedied practice in order to achieve the same or equivalent anti-competitive effect."

In the future, Google must desist from such alleged practices, the letter stated.

"Google must be even-handed," according to the letter. "It must hold all services, including its own, to exactly the same standards, using exactly the same crawling, indexing, ranking, display and penalty algorithms."

The only way to get Google to change its alleged practices, the letter continued, is for the EU to file charges and let the matter be given a full review.

Presently, the EU is reviewing a list of suggested remedies, turned in by Google itself in January, for the antitrust concerns. That list was requested last year by the EU.

"We will respectfully withhold judgment on Google's proposed commitments until we have seen them, but Google's past behavior suggests that it is unlikely to volunteer effective, future-proof remedies without being formally charged with infringement," the letter stated. "Given this, and the fact that Google has exploited every delay to further entrench, extend and escalate its anti-competitive activities, we urge the Commission to issue the Statement of Objections."

Google's suggested remedies for the antitrust issues in the EU have not yet been publicly released. Most importantly, it still must be determined whether Google's suggestions will satisfy EU regulators.