European antitrust charges ignore online shopping market, Google says

The Commission's complaints fail to see a 'robustly competitive' marketplace

Google has rejected European Commission antitrust charges related to its online shopping search service, saying the online shopping marketplace is "robustly competitive."

A revised set of the Commission's antitrust charges, released in July, accused Google of restricting shopping search advertisements from its competitors. But the European case doesn't take the entire online shopping market, including heavyweight Amazon.com, into account, said Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, in a blog post.

The goal of Google's online shopping search service is to provide users with "useful information," Walker added. "If you’re looking to buy a coffee machine or a cast iron pan, we want to connect you directly to merchants who sell them, whether that’s through organic links or ads," he wrote. "Showing more useful ads benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, you, our users."

Consumers reach merchant websites in many ways, including general and specialized search services, merchant platforms, and social media, Walker said.

The Commission filed its original antitrust complaint against Google in April 2015, and the company took issue with the charges then as well.

In its July complaint, the Commission charged Google with favoring "its own comparison shopping service in its general search result pages," Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said then. "It means consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries."

Google's shopping ads, targeted in the European complaints, are helpful to both its users and merchants, Walker countered. "We never compromised the quality or relevance of the information we displayed," he wrote. "On the contrary, we improved it. "That isn't 'favouring' -- that's listening to our customers."

The Computer and Communications Industry Association, a trade group that counts Google as a member, echoed the company's assessment of the online shopping market. 

"Consumers have never had so many ways to find, compare and buy products and services;  competition between services for the consumer’s attention has never been more robust,"  CCIA Europe Vice President James Waterworth said in a press release.

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