ICOMP Statement: Confirmation of an SO Against Google
“Commissioner Vestager’s bold decision to send a Statement of Objections (SO) to Google and open a separate investigation into Google’s Android platform are significant developments in the long running formal investigations into the company. It will be greeted by relief among complainants, harmed businesses and consumers across Europe.”
“An SO cannot be dismissed as a mere preliminary step – it is the product of considerable investigation, detailed analysis of large amounts of factual evidence, and intense internal debate. An SO almost always leads to significant changes in the defendants business practices.” – David Wood. Legal Counsel
It has been clear for some time that, in the absence of effective enforcement action, Google will continue to ignore European competition law, as it has ignored so many other European laws. The Commission’s decision comes as a result of detailed analysis of the facts of the case, and the recognition that European consumers and businesses have been harmed by Google’s illegal conduct.
The economic and social importance of creating a European Digital Single Market has put digital issues at the heart of the European Commission’s priorities for the next five years. The Commission has recognised that violations of EU competition law, by online gatekeepers such as Google, will make it impossible to achieve a Digital Single Market in Europe.
By promoting its own services at the expense of competitors, misappropriating third-party content to benefit itself, and limiting the ability of individuals and businesses to move from one search advertising platform to another, Google’s abuse of dominance distorts European markets, harms consumers, and makes it impossible for Google’s rivals to compete on a level playing field. We see this SO as a crucial first step towards ensuring that European consumers have access to vibrant and competitive online markets.
ICOMP’s members represent a wide range of interests in the digital sphere, from mapping to travel, from intellectual property rights to publishing and news aggregation. Our membership not only welcomes this SO but the Commission’s ongoing investigation and potential extension of the Statement of Objections in the coming weeks to address the full range of abuses it identified in its formal letter to Google in March 2012.
The EC’s confirmation that they will be launching an investigation into Android again underlines the breadth of regulator’s concerns with the way in which Google conducts its business. The truth is Google’s continuous disregard for the law and fair competition is far deeper and broader than its spin portrays and mobile is simply another aspect of the company’s abuse of its dominance. Google’s dominance of mobile through its Android platform is just as staggering as its search monopoly. As of December 2014, it held a 96.61% market share within Europe. For most, mobile is an integral channel by which we communicate and share our lives online. It is a force for good and a tangible effect of an increasingly ever-connected world, but Android ceased to be an open source platform some time ago as Google uses its Android Compatibility Program as a “club” to make phone manufactures do what it wants. For Google, Android is now simply a method of bundling other Google services on users smartphones and tracking user data to drive its advertising business.
Google has a long track record of ignoring European laws and questioning the legitimacy of regulators investigating its conduct, apparently because Google believes it is above the law. Throughout this investigation Google has tried to mischaracterise the issues and divert attention away from its illegal behaviour. Any further attempts to do this must be firmly rejected.
This case is not, and never has been, about requiring Google to publish its algorithm or denying it the chance to innovate or develop. It has always been about the consistent and impartial application of European competition laws. Google must now be required to stop abusing its dominance in search by unfairly prioritising its own services and demoting rivals, activities the Commission has been clear are detrimental to the competitive process and thereby to European consumers.