Exclusive: Group of 165 Google critics calls for swift EU antitrust action

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Bilbo Baggins

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Nov 12, 2020, 7:53:03 PM11/12/20
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reuters.com
Exclusive: Group of 165 Google critics calls for swift EU antitrust
action - letter
Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A group of 165 companies and industry bodies have
called on EU antitrust enforcers to take a tougher line against
Google, saying the U.S. tech giant unfairly favors its own services on
its web searches.

The group includes U.S. and UK companies as well as peers in 21 EU
countries. It sent a joint letter to EU antitrust chief Margrethe
Vestager on Thursday, saying Google was giving its own services, such
as those for accommodation, travel and jobs, preferential placement in
its search results and urging swift action to stop the practice.

Google, a unit of Alphabet, has refuted assertions that it unfairly
favors its own services. It says that its users are not locked in and
that competition to its services is just one click away on the
Internet.

"People expect Google to give them the most relevant, high quality
search results that they can trust," a Google representative said.

"They do not expect us to preference specific companies or commercial
rivals over others, or to stop launching helpful services which create
more choice and competition for Europeans."

Vestager has levied fines totaling 8.25 billion euros ($9.7 billion)
against Google in the past three years for abusing its market power to
favor its shopping comparison service, its Android mobile operating
system and its advertising business.

The 165-strong group - which says it is the largest-ever to write in
concert to EU competition chiefs urging action - comprised 135
companies that offer online services plus 30 industry associations.

Signatories to the letter, seen by Reuters, included longstanding
Google critics Yelp, Expedia, Trivago, Kelkoo, Stepstone and Foundem -
whose complaint triggered the EU shopping probe against Google.

The European Commission said it had received the letter and would
reply in due course. It added that it monitored the market carefully
to assess the effectiveness of remedies offered for Google Shopping.

'UNJUSTIFIED ADVANTAGES'

"While we compete amongst ourselves for the best consumer experience,
there is one common competitor that does not compete fairly - Google,"
the letter said.

"Google gained unjustified advantages through preferentially treating
its own services within its general search results pages by displaying
various forms of grouped specialized search results (so-called
OneBoxes)," it added.

OneBoxes outline information and images in boxes placed near the top
of search results and are often ways for local businesses to get more
visibility.

For example, a search for local jobs might throw up a box offering
Google's job-search service, or a results for a flight query might
have a box offering Google's flights-search service.

"With this exclusive use of OneBoxes, Google artificially keeps users
within its own service and prevents them from visiting competing, more
relevant services," the letter said.

The group said the Digital Markets Act - new EU tech rules in the
pipeline that would prevent dominant online platforms from favoring
their own services - would take too long to come into effect. They
urged Vestager to act swiftly to ensure Google gave its rivals equal
treatment in search results.

"Many of us may not have the strength and resources to wait until such
regulation really takes effect," they said.

Vestager is due to announce a draft law on Dec. 2, which will need
input from EU countries and the European Parliament before it can
become legislation in a process that could a year or more. It is
unclear how the new rules would affect Google's presentation of its
search results.

($1 = 0.8514 euros)

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop;
Editing by Pravin Char and David Evans
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BeamMeUpScotty

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Nov 12, 2020, 10:57:35 PM11/12/20
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Every NATION and State/Province City County and Home owners association
should sue Google.... for Antitrust.

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