INTERNET GIANT Google has formally rejected Europe's antitrust charges related to the Google Shopping service, arguing that it doesn't harm online competition and that the charges don't reflect how consumers shop online.
Europe's investigation into Google Shopping has dragged on for some six years, although the European Commission (EC) only issued a formal Statement of Objections in April 2015, extending that in July this year with further objections related to Google’s AdSense service.
The EC argues that Google promotes its own services at the expense of rivals' to the "detriment of consumers", and that this "stifles innovation" in the online shopping market.
Google has dismissed the charges entirely, claiming that the EC's arguments lack factual and legal basis and that the EC has a skewed vision of how people shop online.
Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, said in a blog post: "We never compromised the quality or relevance of the information we displayed. On the contrary, we improved it. That isn't 'favouring' - that's listening to our customers," he said.
Walker also noted that the EC has not considered the likes of eBay, social media websites and Amazon, which he described as "by far the largest player on the field".
"Our response demonstrated that online shopping is robustly competitive, with lots of evidence supporting the common sense conclusion that Google and many other websites are chasing Amazon," he said.
The EC had previously argued that Amazon couldn't be considered a rival because it sometimes paid shopping comparison sites for referral traffic.
"Consumers don’t just look for products on a search engine, then click on a price comparison site, and then click again to visit merchant sites," Walker said.
“They reach merchant websites in many different ways: via general search engines, specialist search services, merchant platforms, social media sites and online ads served by various companies.”
Google also pointed to the rising use of retailers' dedicated apps as bolstering its case that consumers have changed how they shop online.
"Ultimately, we can’t agree with a case that lacks evidence and would limit our ability to serve our users, just to satisfy the interests of a small number of websites," Walker concluded.
"But we remain committed to working with the EC in hopes of resolving the issues raised, and we look forward to continuing our discussions."
EC spokesperson Ricardo Cardoso said: "In each case, we will carefully consider Google's response before taking any decision on how to proceed and cannot at this stage prejudge the final outcome of the investigation."
Google also submitted a response to the Statement of Objections related to its AdSense programme and has until 11 November to respond to the third antitrust complaint regarding preferential Android software development. µ
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