Lenient EU Google antitrust decision 'fatally flawed'

By Danny Palmer
23 Jul 2014 View Comments
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The European Commission's ruling in the Google antitrust case contains "fatal flaws" that will result in "catastrophic consequences" if extra concessions aren't applied.

That's according to Adam and Shivaun Raff, co-founders of www.foundem.co.uk and www.SearchNeutrality.org, who argue that the antitrust ruling doesn't do enough to safeguard Google's smaller competitors from going out of business. They expressed their concerns in an open letter to European Commissioner Joaquín Almunia, who oversaw much of the case against Google.

Further reading

The Competition Commission spent over three and a half years investigating whether Google's search engine favours the firm's own assets, such as YouTube, ranking them higher on the search results page, while actively hindering those of rivals. The result of the case saw Google agree to display links to competitors' services more prominently, but the Raffs say this doesn't go far enough.

"We very much hope that you will find the time to read it, because it unambiguously demonstrates that all of the Commission's key arguments for adopting Google's proposals are erroneous," said the letter, which suggests the Commission's arguments in defence of Google's proposals are "spurious" and that there have been no attempts to validate the concessions offered by Google.

"Had the Commission sought such validation, the fatal flaws in these arguments would have been revealed some time ago," the letter continued, adding "the proposed Paid Rival Links will consume the majority of rivals' profits."

"For you to continue to claim that auction-based Paid Rival Links are a substitute for the free, natural search traffic Google is anti-competitively diverting, you would now need not only to argue against the overwhelming evidence and analyses from Complainants, market participants, and consumer groups, you would also need to argue against your own DG - directly contradicting the fundamental conclusions of its Preliminary Assessment," the letter continued.

"Clearly, this is not a sustainable position - particularly in a case with such far-reaching and potentially catastrophic consequences," it concluded.

The Commission was divided when it finally came to a decision over Google earlier this year, with several Commissioners of the opinion the judgment was too lenient.

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