Unsurprisingly, the European Commission (EC) has filed a third “Statement of Objections” against Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. on Thursday. Not only that, the antitrust regulator even amended charges associated with initial shopping search case. It looks like Google is now dealing with three different active antitrust cases in Europe, all at the same time.
The charges in this third Statement of Objections focuses on exclusivity provisions in Google AdWords agreements (“AdSense for Search“) with third party publishers. Allegedly, this agreement prohibits them from using competing ad services. According to a report in the WSJ:
In the advertising case, the EU has specifically targeted part of its service called AdSense, through which Google provides third-party websites search functions embedded in their sites. The EU accuses Google of imposing restrictions on the way those third-party websites display search ads from Google’s rivals.
The “supplementary statement of objections” is intended to respond to Google’s arguments against the original EC contentions in its shopping “search bias” case:
The EU also said it was “strengthening” its case against Google in shopping with the supplementary charge sheet, which “outlines a broad range of additional evidence and data that reinforces the commission’s preliminary conclusion.”
The idea behind this supplementary statement is to seek to address arguments in Google’s responses to the EC’s original statement of objections, fortifying their position in the event of potential legal challenges in Europe’s top courts. It’s Google’s argument that:
- The changes and updates made of its (shopping) search results has been all about improving the overall user experience, and
- the competitive market that the EC has examined is narrowly drawn, and isn’t including Google rivals, like Amazon and eBay.
According to the WSJ, Margrethe Vestager, the EC’s Competition chief rejected that the latter position: “The facts unveiled by our investigation do not support” Google’s arguments about the expanded competitive set. Although eBay doesn’t make the cut in this situation, Amazon is a clear competitor in product search.