Google’s ambitions grow loftier every year, expanding from phones, to wearable electronics, to self-driving cars. But for all the new avenues it pursues, some of Google’s greatest strengths continue to reside in the core search business that made it a household name. Untold millions of us use Google to conduct searches every day, and rely on the data it provides to make so many decisions in our lives. Is Google providing us unadulterated, relevant search results, or does it skew its output in order to serve the company’s own interests? That’s what the EU is asking as it makes formal antitrust allegations against Google.
The EU’s complaint is a specific one: it claims that Google is preferentially displaying its own retail comparison shopping services to the detriment of competitors and consumers alike.
Google’s quick to hit the defensive, firing back with data that appears to show in-house services like Google Travel and Google Shopping being dwarfed by traffic from sites like eBay, Amazon, and any number of travel providers. In Google’s mind, there’s plenty of healthy competition in these fields. Maybe more importantly, it claims that many users bypass its search systems entirely when looking for specific advice about retail options, pointing to the number of Yelp users who access the service right from the company’s own app, rather than following Yelp results in Google search.
The EU will allow Google to formally respond to its charges, and a final ruling could follow sometime later this year.
In addition to this retail search problem, the EU is also in the middle of a different investigation looking into antitrust issues concerning Google’s role as the company behind Android.