Last Thursday, Google filed a response to the European Commission (EC) rejecting the accusations of the EU. In April, the European Union (EU) formally accused Google Inc. of violating antitrust laws through the abuse of its dominant power in search engines after a five year long investigation.
The EC handles both the legislative and administrative functions of the EU. That action marked the beginning of a legal battle that could last years.
The charges made by the EU claim that Google structures search results to display its own services before those of its rivals. The EC has focused the case on Google’s shopping platform; however, they are launching another formal investigation about Android, Google’s mobile operating system. The accusation could eventually affect other functions of Google including the hotel and flight booking operations.
Even though consumers may not often consider this, Google is more than a conglomeration of online tools that allows users to effortlessly complete everyday tasks like researching, shopping and communicating. It is a company that strives for profits, efficiency and innovation. The only responsibility Google has towards consumers is the assurance that no fraudulent activities are occurring throughout the websites they control. Likewise, the only restrictions a government should hold over Google involves the protection of the individual from fraudulent activities.
According to the New York Times, Google holds about 90 percent of Europe’s search market and 65 percent of the market in the United States. The EU complains that the use of this dominance to direct users to its own services is harmful towards consumers and competing comparison-shopping companies. If Google’s results were truly harmful to users, the company would not be as successful as it is.
There are many similar options on the market like Bing and Yahoo, which both have shopping, communication and search engine components. If users were unhappy about the service, they could simply choose a different option. Conversely, if Google is found guilty, its consumers will suffer, as the company will have to change its tactics and promote services and products that did not aid or interest its patrons.
Google is successful because of its continuous efforts to improve its platform. If it remained settled with its success, a competitor eventually would surpass it. Google is not limiting competition but delivering a service within a competitive market and there are many popular competitors such as Amazon and eBay. It is the constant endeavor for improvement that inspires great inventions.
In a blog post, Kevin Walker, Senior Vice President and General Counselor for Google, wrote, “Our search engine is designed to provide the most relevant results and most useful ads for any query.” Google’s goal is to help its customers, but the company’s size and worth inspire conflicting claims. The EU filed accusations against Google claiming an abuse of dominant power with hopes to level the playing field against competitors. However, a truly fair competition would give Google the power to control its content because its competition would have the same ability.
If Google is found to have broken antitrust laws, it will face billion dollar fines and will be required to alter its search algorithm. The EC’s remedy proposes that Google use ads sourced and ranked by other companies in their advertising space.
This is not a solution but a request for Google to surrender the rights to control the contents of its website. A potential consequence would be a loss in European consumers due to a lack of efficiency in the search results.
Yet as Google has roughly 90 percent of the European search market, the decrease in consumers would leave an ample space for another search engine to emerge in the market and possibly take control over time. If Google is to lose customers, it should happen because of its own incompetence to satisfy customers, not because the government is inserting itself into the inner workings of the company.
Alyssa Luis is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.