In a report by the Financial Times (paywall), Yelp is complaining to the European Commission (EC) that Google “abused its dominance in local search” and is seeking a formal Statement of Objections against the company due to antitrust charges.
The complaint is almost exactly like the claims that were made against Google in the shopping search context – Google favoring their own content, while minimizing the content of its competitors. Once the EC brought the formal Statement in shopping search that subsequently fined Google roughly $2.7 billion, EC said that similar actions were possible.
Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp co-founder and CEO, appeared on a “60 Minutes” segment this week, where he argued that Google intentionally harmed competition in local and other areas. Another person who appeared on the show, Margrethe Vestager, EU Competition Commissioner, agreed, saying that Google was engaged in illegal conduct and that she “had proof.”
Yelp’s Luther Lowe provided the following statement in an email:
When a mother does a search for a pediatrician in Berlin, instead of being matched with rich review content from a service like German startup Jameda.de, Google siphons her to a degraded local experience with fewer reviews and less content. In addition to being anticompetitive, this type of conduct directly harms consumers who still assume Google is relying on its meritocratic algorithms to govern which information appears at the top of the page.
The substantial economic data and evidence included in [Yelp’s complaint] provides the tools needed for Commissioner Vestager’s team to extend its finding of guilt in comparison shopping into local search, the most common form of search on Google.
Yelp was the one who ended up helping defeat the 2014 antitrust settlement Google and then EC competition chief Joaquín Almunia had worked out. Current commissioner Vestager has been much more aggressive in her pursuit of Google and other US tech companies than her predecessor.
Local search and travel were part of the original antitrust investigation into Google in Europe, but the scope of the official Statement of Objections was reduced to cover just shopping search. According to Vestager, there could be additional actions under the same theories and logic.