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Online Service Firms Call for Antitrust Action Against Tech Giant Google

David Paul

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Google antitrust

The group sent a joint letter to the EU antitrust chief to argue Google has “gained unjustified advantages” through its search engine.

A group of 165 industry bodies have called on EU regulators to impose antitrust action on Google for its business practices.

A joint letter, seen by Reuters, was sent to EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager sating that Google was giving preferential search results to its own services, such as those for accommodation, travel, and jobs.

The group, which includes companies from the US and the UK, as well as peers in 21 EU countries, has called on antitrust enforcers to take a tougher line against the firm.

In the letter to Vestager, the group stated: “While we compete amongst ourselves for the best consumer experience, there is one common competitor that does not compete fairly – Google.

It added: “Google gained unjustified advantages through preferentially treating its own services within its general search results pages by displaying various forms of grouped specialised search results (so-called OneBoxes).”

A OneBox is a separate display box within search engine result pages containing information and images and are often used by local businesses to gain more visibility.

The letter states that Google is using the OneBoxes to “artificially” keeping users within its own services which “prevents them from visiting competing, more relevant services.”

Google has refuted assertions that it unfairly favours its own services.

A New Digital Markets Act is set to be implemented soon, which aims to prevent dominant US tech firms from favouring their own services. However, the group says this would come too late and pushed Vestager to “act swiftly.”

The is the second attempt to bring antitrust action against the tech giant after the US Department of Justice brought a similar suit in late October.

Google was investigated for more than a year by the Department before the issuing of the lawsuit, alleging that the company is “unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States.”

The suit stated that Google had “locked up” the primary avenues which internet users access search engines, setting its search option as the “preset default general search engine” of mobile devices and computers worldwide, which prohibited installing of rival search engines.

Billions of Euros worth of fines have been brought against Google over the past three years by Vestager for abusing its market power, as well as its use of the Android mobile OS and its advertising firm.

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Google is also not the only tech giant being pursued but antitrust regulators. Yesterday (11th October) Amazon has also been charged by the European Commission (EC) over claims it uses data from third-party sellers to gain an unfair advantage and boost sales of its own goods.

In a Statement of Objections sent to Amazon, the EC claimed that the firm has “illegally distorted competition in online retail markets.”

Large technology companies have increasingly been under the spotlight in recent months for their domination of online markets.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple boss Tim Cook appeared before the House Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee in July to discuss claims the firms are stifling competition.

Under questioning by David Cicilline, Democratic Congressman leading the congressional committee, Pichai denied that Google has actively stifled competition and prevented smaller businesses from operating within its sphere of influence.

When asked why does Google was stealing content from honest businesses, Pichai rejected the claims and denied the tech giant would “steal content” from other organisations.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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