Google fighting anti-competition threats in the US and the EU - The UpStream

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Google fighting anti-competition threats in the US and the EU

posted Saturday Nov 13, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Google fighting anti-competition threats in the US and the EU

While all focus might be on the newly renamed Meta these days, the tech company with the most scrutiny over the past decade or so has been Alphabet's Google. While the company once had an internal motto "Don't be evil," an overwhelming consensus is that Google regularly violates both the public's trust, as well as its market position in search. Governments across the globe have created special laws and started investigations into the way Google does business. This week, Google is dealing with two specific issues in the US and the EU.

Google's response to a new US law

The House Judiciary Committee completed the first step in approving a new law aimed at Big Tech and its perceived antitrust abuses. The hearing saw the introduction of several bills, most notably the Ending Platform Monopolies Act. This bill "eliminates the ability of dominant platforms to leverage their control over across multiple business lines to self-preference and disadvantage competitors in ways that undermine free and fair competition," according to a press release from Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) on June 11. The bill describes itself as,

A bill to promote competition and economic opportunity in digital markets by eliminating the conflicts of interest that arise from a dominant online platform's concurrent ownership or control of an online platform and certain other businesses.

Google's response to the bill is different than normal, though. While a normal situation would end in Google writing a blog post with a headline like "Android has created more choice, not less," the company took a more direct approach. They began to build a coalition against the legislation, emailing small businesses whose companies are listed on Google Maps and Google Business. The emails say,

New laws may impact businesses. Proposed legislation could make it harder to find your business online.

Both emails also link to a specific page trying to collect support against the legislation, while not mentioning it by name. Their claim is that, if the legislation passes, it will prevent the company from creating summary cards for things like small business, with easy access to store hours, reviews, phone number and website, and more. Instead, they would be forced to show just the normal list of links.

The problem is that this would not be the result of the bill. Instead, it would simply prevent Google from prioritizing its own services, such as Google Maps, over other competing services, such as Yelp or Bing. The company could easily compile data form all of these services to create an even more useful summary card, the way Bing does with people search results, drawing from IMDb, Wikipedia, Facebook, and more.

The EU is a decade ahead

While the US is mulling creating specific tech legislation to prevent Big Tech companies like Google to prioritize their own services, the EU filed a suit against Google over just this issue. The case originated in 2009, and Google has been fighting it ever since. The suit centers around the company's bundling schemes, such as integrating Shopping results in Search.

The suit was lost by Google long ago, but the company has recently lost once again in an appeals court. The court upheld a lower court's ruling, as well as its $2.8 billion fine. Google has one more level of appeal in the case, but it would be before the EU's equivalent of the US Supreme Court, called the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The court is unlikely to rule in Google's favor, based on the general legal standing across Europe.


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