Google calls European Union antitrust charges 'unfounded'

The EU charged Google with stifling competition and harming consumers

In front of the European Commission's Charlemagne building (2)

In front of the European Commission's Charlemagne building in Brussels.

Credit: Loek Essers

Google has finally responded to antitrust charges brought against it by the European Commission over how it presents search results, and its pugnacious reply potentially sets up a lengthy legal battle between the company and the regulator.

In the spring, the EU charged Google with stifling competition and harming consumers by favoring its comparison shopping services over those of its rivals. Google faces the possibility of billions of Euros worth of fines in the case.

But Google refuted the claims on Thursday, calling the Commission's concerns "unfounded." The company said its services actually increase choice for European consumers.

Google said that the EU has not adequately justified its charges, nor has has it provided any legal framework that would connect its claims with its proposed remedy. In particular, the EU's charges don't take into account the continued rise of shopping services like Amazon and eBay, Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel at Google, said in a blog post.

Google's response could be a sign of years of legal battles to come in a case that already dates back to 2010.

The European Commission will carefully consider Google's response before taking any decision on how to proceed, spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said.

The Commission has proposed that Google show ads sourced and ranked by other companies within its own ads on its search results page, Google said. Google called that remedy problematic, saying it would harm the quality and relevance of its results.

If the Commission ultimately finds Google in the wrong, penalties could include fines of up to 10% of its annual revenue.

The Commission has also opened a separate antitrust investigation into Google's Android operating system. That inquiry revolves around the extent to which Google could abuse its dominant position by, among other factors, requiring manufacturers to bundle Google's services with the open-source system.

Google did not mention that investigation in its post on Thursday.

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