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Europe Accuses Google of Monopoly Abuse 211

Posted by timothy
from the funny-there's-sort-of-a-government-monopoly dept.
bonch writes "European antitrust regulators are set to issue a 400-page statement of objections accusing Google of 'abuse of dominance' next month, the result of an investigation launched last year after complaints from rivals that Google manipulated ad pricing and barred advertisers from running ads on rival sites. If found guilty, Google could be fined up to 10% of its annual turnover, which is about $3 billion. Microsoft avoided a similar fine when it settled its European antitrust case and included a 'browser ballot' in Windows."
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Europe Accuses Google of Monopoly Abuse

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  • by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @06:49AM (#38248730)
    They're using their huge market share to unfairly promote their other products left and right. They have the most dominant position to do this too - the largest search engine on planet. They can put out anyone they want out of business. For years they have scraped smaller websites and then returning their own sites higher in search engine results. They push Google+ to every that comes to Google. How is Diaspore or other smaller social networks ever going to challenge that? They push Chrome to every IE user in a very spammy way, and they always do it in YouTube too. Recently all the flight ticket search engines started fearing as Google introduced their own one and embedded the results directly in search results.

    Now with Google+, they're tieing all their products together too. YouTube just got a much more "social" and google+'ish look, and in one of their recent videos they show how search results, maps, calendar, news, music, video and every other Google service will integrate with Google+. Because of their market share that is blatant monopoly abuse and I'm good to see that EU is finally doing something about it. US is still investigating Google, but with Google having bought so many politicans in Washington and friends in NSA and FBI I'd be more surprised to see if they did something.
    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @07:03AM (#38248774)

      Look. Google is just flavour of the month.

      The very things you are worried about are Google's death knell, they are busy dividing and conquering their own workforce and focus, exactly the way previous giants, like Nokia did, so don't worry about it, it's a natural part of executive narcissism. Someone will come along (out of nowhere it'll seem) in a short while and make billions knocking Google off their pedestal into a has-been like Microsoft.
       

      • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @07:10AM (#38248800)
        Microsoft is far from a has-been. They still dominate in desktop operating systems, and in all office software for business use. Not doing badly in servers too. Just because their efforts to expand into HPC and embedded have failed dismally doesn't make them a has-been.
    • by EasyTarget (43516) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @07:18AM (#38248822) Journal

      Oh; stop talking out of your arse.

      Once you have CHOSEN to go to the Google webspace then yes, you will see the whole Google portfolio; nothing wrong with that, you would not expect to see Macy's products advertised on Sears would you?

      bing - four characters
      google - six characters

      People take extra effort to use google; they actively select it. If you install windows and select the default/first option everywhere you end up with bing/MS on everything. and yet: PEOPLE ACTIVELY CHOOSE GOOGLE..

      They do need controlling on their advertising dominance but to claim they abuse their search position is nonsensical. (or, given the speed and pre-written nature of your response, shows that it is a claim mostly made by the paid-for muppets of their rivals.)

      • by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @07:23AM (#38248848)
        Every monopoly abuse still needs that choosing. No one has anyone ever physically forced you to use their services. Yet, companies are fined for monopoly abuses and it's against the law. EVEN IF PEOPLE ACTIVELY CHOOSE THEM TOO, like you shouted. It's still wrong to abuse your monopoly status even if people choose to use your services, that's the whole point of it.
        • Generally speaking, prosecuted monopolies tend to make it unreasonable to make an alternative choice. For example, it is still quite difficult to buy a new desktop computer that has a non-Windows operating system installed, and it was even more difficult back when MS was under antitrust investigations. In addition to that, it was at the time very difficult to NOT have IE installed on said computer. IIRC, they even used their position in the desktop OS market to ensure that Netscape was not installed on c
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            But what matters here is that Google is actively working to destroy competition, by forbidding their advertisers from using the same ads in competing advertising places. This leaves worse revenue stream for competing services, and no finances to compete against Google. Bing is only capable of it because Microsoft can back it from separate revenue sources, and yet Google is still actively trying to prevent advertisers from moving to their services. Other companies just don't have any change. That is pure abu
            • by EasyTarget (43516)

              But what matters here is that Google is actively working to destroy competition.

              Welcome to a capitalist economy; this is what companies do..

              As I noted elsewhere here, there probably is (from what I have seen) a case to answer in the advertising sphere..

              But search. No. And it's not just Bing of course, there is Baidu, Ask, Yahoo, even Watson. and many more.. As a search consumer I feel fully empowered and actively use multiple products from multiple companies.

          • by satuon (1822492)

            For example, it is still quite difficult to buy a new desktop computer that has a non-Windows operating system installed

            In my country, which is in Eastern Europe, nearly half of all PC and laptops sold come without Windows. They either have Ubuntu or FreeDOS installed, and they cost about $50-$100 less. This is done because a price difference of $100 means a lot to people here. Of course, people buying a Core i7 laptop running FreeDOS intend to pirate Windows, but it's perfectly legitimate for vendors to sell the laptops, because they're not the ones doing the pirating.

      • PEOPLE ACTIVELY CHOOSE GOOGLE

        Please. They choose Google because no matter what they choose, it's automatically Google. They type in the search bar, it goes to Google. They type in the address bar, it goes to Google without even telling them. They click the magnifying glass on their phone, it goes to google. They search on their game system, it goes to Google. I realize there are some phones and web browsers that don't use Google. But in general, people choose Google because it's the only thing they see.

        • by sgtrock (191182)

          Please. They choose Bing because no matter what they choose, it's automatically Bing. They type in the search bar, it goes to Bing. They type in the address bar, it goes to Bing without even telling them. They click the magnifying glass on their phone, it goes to Bing. They search on their game system, it goes to Bing. I realize there are some phones and web browsers that don't use Bing. But in general, people choose Bing because it's the only thing they see.

          FTFY

      • PEOPLE ACTIVELY CHOOSE GOOGLE

        You could say the same for the Microsoft monopoly. After all, you have to choose MS Windows before you'd get the default IE browser. And before you say Windows is installed by default on the computer and users didn't "choose" it, keep in mind that Apple had always been happy to sell you a Mac -- the user did choose the Wintel platform.

        you would not expect to see Macy's products advertised on Sears would you?

        If Sears became a monopoly, and used its position to block competitors of its own products, then I suspect there'd be a problem too.

        • You could say the same for the Microsoft monopoly.

          No, you really can't. People don't choose Microsoft because they like it, they choose Microsoft because they don't have a choice. It is necessary to run third party software, which has nothing to do with the quality or price of the actual Microsoft product. And by and large it comes on your new PC whether you want it or not.

          Compare this to search engines: They all cost the same (free), and there is no switching cost because there is no third party software (you don't have to buy a different web browser and

          • by Rockoon (1252108)

            It is necessary to run third party software, which has nothing to do with the quality or price of the actual Microsoft product.

            You arent considering the full-breadth of what 'quality' means.

            Q: "Why did you choose Windows?"
            A: "Because it does the things I want."

            That is the very fucking definition of quality when you get right down to it.

            • You arent considering the full-breadth of what 'quality' means.

              You're attempting to fold all of the market barriers to entry into the definition of quality, so that any barrier to entry (like third party application support) is written off as a good quality of the monopolist's product. Which is totally useless when the point to distinguish between barriers to entry and meritorious competition on the basis of price and quality.

        • by EasyTarget (43516)

          "You could say the same for the Microsoft monopoly."

          Nope; I really cant.. Having brought and tried my first windows machine 20 years ago It was crap; but the cost to me of changing it for a mac would have been many hundreds of dollars and a fair amount of physical effort and re-learning stuff .

          The cost to me of switching web search providers is trivial; in fact a good argument can be made that people generally start with a competitor and actively switch to Google to get a better product. And equally importa

        • by EasyTarget (43516)

          "If Sears became a monopoly, and used its position to block competitors of its own products, then I suspect there'd be a problem too."

          Care to elaborate; care to explain how Sears will stop you shopping at Macy's?

          The mechanisms I can see would be by buying the land and closing the stores (or closing the road to the stores, or screwing with their supply chain, or attacking them economically/legally). All of which would scream 'red flag' and be very actionable.

          However; I can type 'www.bing.com' in chrome and s

      • The point is that google is funding parts of their company (google+, docs, you name it) by completely unrelated parts (search).

        Those are unfair practices and are rightfully questioned and stopped by the EU.

        • by EasyTarget (43516)

          Google is one company, and can distribute it's finances any way it wishes to within the company.. Just as I distribute my personal finances as I see fit.. An so long as I meet my basic obligations (tax, fishfood, I have no debts ;-) ) I can use, for instance, money I earn working as a web admin to support my private websites etc..

          If using profits from one branch of a business to promote another is 'unfair' then every company that's ever expanded has done so 'unfairly'

        • by bhagwad (1426855)
          Wow - if that's what you call unfair, let's just shutter every major company on the planet.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 03, 2011 @07:45AM (#38248926)

      Yet the barriers to switch away from google for the end user are essentially zero, so there really is no monopoly power to abuse. If end users find google searches limited in scope to google's products and thus is not what they are looking for, they can switch away to yahoo, bing or whatever website they want. Google even makes it easier for you to change default search engines in its browser, than the browser of its competitor, microsoft, does. Don't forget that in the market of finding information, it's not only search engines that do this anymore. Facebook is driving a lot of traffic to sites just as google is. It is also offering its own ad system.

      Simply promoting Google+, or Chrome is in no way abuse of monopoly power. Scraping is not what Google is doing. it is indexing sites, fully complying to robots.txt, and offering information to its users and therefore traffic to these sites in a manner it sees is more useful to its users. Let's face it, when you search for "New York", you more likely than not want to see a map and maybe stuff you can do there (links below that open up relevant searches). Calling this unfair advantage and calling for action on it, would in essence not let google users find what they really intended to find and thus render google less useful to them.

      Ultimately you have to ask yourself is: What is the harm being done to consumers? If you ask me, the people complaining that Google abuses its position, don't really have a compelling answer to that, other than "please protect our interests".

    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @08:19AM (#38249028)

      They're using their huge market share to unfairly promote their other products left and right.

      You mean, like every business on earth, they use their existing mind share to promote their other products. Unless you actually want to fine Boeing for advertising their regional jets when they're selling their intercontinental jets, you're full of hot air.

      They have the most dominant position to do this too - the largest search engine on planet.

      Only if you define the planet by Europe and US. Russia isn't so enamored with Google, and China... well, we know about China. You can, of course, always weasel out by arguing that they are still the largest engine on the planet by total users, but now you're just mixing arguments. I'm pretty sure that's not an accident, too.

      For years they have scraped smaller websites and then returning their own sites higher in search engine results.

      They push Google+ to every that comes to Google.

      Yes? Should they hide the fact that they have another product available?

      How is Diaspore or other smaller social networks ever going to challenge that?

      By being better? Or, to turn the argument around - the same way that Google ate Altavista's lunch.

      They push Chrome to every IE user in a very spammy way, and they always do it in YouTube too.

      Another outright fucking lie. Unless you think that telling people that they should upgrade from IE 6 is a terrible sin. In which case, you're just delusional.

      Recently all the flight ticket search engines started fearing as Google introduced their own one and embedded the results directly in search results.

      Yes. God forbid there's some competition in the flight search engine market.

      Because of their market share that is blatant monopoly abuse and I'm good to see that EU is finally doing something about it.

      Newsflash: having a large market share is not a monopoly. Furthermore, having a monopoly is not in and of itself illegal. What is illegal is to turn a non-government sanctioned monopoly into a rent-seeking enterprise by limiting external competition.

      Now, how exactly is Google limiting competition? People are a click away from Bing. A click away from Facebook. None of the data that Google holds is sticky. There is exactly zero cost to switching to a competitor like Bing. Why aren't people doing it? Tell me, why? Because.... they're Google? That's a circular argument.

      Tell you what, I'll make you a deal. You start posting the same crap in Facebook and Microsoft stories, and I'll pretend that you actually believe what you're posting.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        --"They push Chrome to every IE user in a very spammy way, and they always do it in YouTube too."

        -"Another outright fucking lie. Unless you think that telling people that they should upgrade from IE 6 is a terrible sin. In which case, you're just delusional."

        have you actually booted up ie lately? I had a win 7 installation in summer(work laptop) and used ie(version that shipped with it) and bing just for keeping up to date on them. the chrome adverts google served up for it were downright spammy and in your

        • have you actually booted up ie lately?

          I have. Same reason as you - I have a work laptop with Win7 that has IE8 for troubleshooting purposes. Just for kicks, I clicked around google.com, did some searches, clicked around Youtube, watched some videos. Not a single Chrome ad. Not even a link to Chrome in any
          discernible fashion. You're gonna have to do better than just claiming that, because I just don't see it.

          advertising is a different thing though. forcing exclusivity deals to stop advertisers from advertising on other search engines makes other search engines business harder.

          If that is true, they deserve to be slapped down for that. I'm still waiting for some sort of proof, other than someone just claiming that

    • by dell623 (2021586)

      Everyone is using their huge market share to promote their products left and right. It takes a long time for laws and legal authorities to catch up to developments in technology, and by that time these monopolies are so big that they can painlessly absorb any fines and have bottomless cash reserves for a legal fight.

      Google is doing that, but it is important to note that Google is no different in this respect from any other major company. It offers the only way anyone will ever compete with Facebook, and the

    • Not the issue (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:01AM (#38249180)

      You're confusing a couple of very different issues here. Google does NOT have a monopoly on search and the EU isn't claiming they do. By the very definition if useful alternatives exist then there's not a monopoly. Naturally they push their other services to existing users. Every company does this. Every company that has some common sense and is likely to be in business next financial year anyway. The key thing that differentiates this from normal practice and abuse of power is if the users have choice or not.

      For all users there is a choice. I.e. is shipped out of the box with Bing as the default search engine. When you first start Chrome it asks you what your default search engine is. When you go to Google's home page you get a single bar at the top of the page, that's it. Users can all avoid this (and given the latest search numbers quite a few of them do) and thus it is not an abuse of market share.

      What Google does have a monopoly in is advertising. They have the single biggest presence for advertising on the internet with facebook a very distant second, and unlike the general user visiting a search engine there's not the same amount of choice out there for advertisers given that Google's monopoly stretches way beyond the search arena and onto websites of partners around the world.

      • And whom is compelling those who wish to advertise to use Google? There are other other ad services available which provide the same function. There still do exist newspapers, tv, radio and billboards. This table [plunkettresearch.com] may help you out

        • by Rockoon (1252108)

          And whom is compelling those who wish to advertise to use Google? There are other other ad services available which provide the same function.

          I dont think you know what "function" means in this context. If you want a million eyes on your advertisement today, you have to go with Google, and thus you cannot go with anyone else because Google forbids it.

          Are you fucking stupid or just a google lover?

    • by horza (87255)

      They're using their huge market share to unfairly promote their other products left and right.

      Hardly. Why wouldn't a company be able to promote its own products? Even if they did reserve some advertising space for themselves, they are not censoring their rivals from appearing.

      They can put out anyone they want out of business.

      Is Facebook out of business yet? Last time I read people were still using it.

      They push Google+ to every that comes to Google.

      One of the initial reasons people loved Google is how unintr

    • OMFG!!! Those bastards!! They are using legitimate business practises to compete fairly, and they are winning over European companies that offer an inferior service!!

      From the article "Foundem vs Google: a case study in SEO fail"

      I read the article on the tube, so wasn’t immediately able to check the website in question, but normally when firms blame Google for their problems it is related entirely to their web strategy (or lack of it), as opposed to some outlandish flaw with Google's algorithm. As such I reckoned there would be a problem with the Foundem website, and probably relating to unique content, technology, and a lack of quality links.

      It turns out that there are problems in all of these areas...

      http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/4456-foundem-vs-google-a-case-study-in-seo-fail

      In any case, this clearly just another Microsoft scam. From the article:

      The probe was prompted by complaints from several rivals including Foundem, eJustice, and Microsoft-owned Ciao, which claimed that Google had unfairly manipulated search results by lowering the rankings of competing services and elevating its own offerings in unpaid results.

      Typical, MS using "Tonya Harding" tactics to break the knee-caps of MS competitors.

      Anyway, why should Google have to promote Google c

    • by Flammon (4726)

      Looks like we've got a Google hater on our hands here folks so put your critical thinking caps on and let's review.

      They're using their huge market share to unfairly promote their other products left and right.

      Do you always talk gibberish or are you trying something new today? Google can promote all they want, there are no laws against promotion. If Google forced you to use Chrome to access their sites, then we would have a problem but there not so let's move on.

      They have the most dominant position to do this too - the largest search engine on planet.

      Good for them. They did it fair and square.

      They can put out anyone they want out of business.

      So can anyone else. As long as the competition laws are followed.

      For years they have scraped smaller websites and then returning their own sites higher in search engine results.

      Do you have any proof of this? I

    • by dissy (172727)

      If you hate Google's products so much, why do you insist on continuing to type google.com into your browser and going there?
      You forcing the problem on yourself is the only way for your statements to be true.

      If you don't want to be there, STOP going there.

      The only thing more funny than Nelson taking a kids fist and using it to punch said kid in face, saying "Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!" -- Is people like you, who stand alone in a field punching yourself all on your own accord, and then co

    • And exactly what is wrong with promoting your other products? Think about wtf you just said. So if you start a company and it provides a product or service which does incredibly well, so well that it is the defacto choice, then you should not market your other products to your customers? You are not forced to buy them. You are not even forced to buy or use the original product.

      And given that for the end user that a) Google searches are free (as are youtube, gmail, etc) and b) there are many competitors (Fac

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Personally i'm damned sick of google shoving chrome down everyone's throats thanks to having it spammed in every piece of freeware on the planet. First it was the damned toolbar now its Chrome. seriously WTF Google? you have the biggest fricking search engine on the planet AND the most popular video site AND one of the biggest mobile OSes AND a very popular email client. that isn't enough damned ways to shill chrome for you? you gotta act like God damned Bonzi Buddy too? WTF?

      Personally TFA wouldn't surpri

  • by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @07:28AM (#38248862)
    As an Italian patriot I welcome fining corporations. I'm sure I speak for many of us when I say "We see this as a minor yet convenient contribution to our nation al debt. Even single digit billions are not to be shunned. And some of it will eventually land in Italian pockets." There must be a way to make it stick and I'm sure we can make the form or shape we find look beautiful, trust me.

    Personally I see a dodgy edge on Google but compared to M$ they are saints and I'd be absolutely terrified if Apple were in a similar position. Oh, and "Italian patriot" is a bit of an oxymoron.
    • by SpzToid (869795)

      This is sort of off-topic since TFA is about Google's monopoly power (in Europe), and Google is after all legally enjoying its Dutch Sandwich, but I'm also in favor of the EU keeping more of Google's free lunch to pay EU debts.

      Urban Dictionary describes a Dutch Sandwich as follows:

      A legal tax dodge also called the Double Irish. Profits are sent to Ireland which has a high tax rate. But, Ireland doesn't tax some payments made to other EU states, so the money is sent to a shell in the Netherlands. The Dutch h

  • by Kartu (1490911) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @08:08AM (#38248992)

    A while ago a friend of mine, working at myvideo.de, complained, that google kept ads prices too low to pressure competition. Considering youtube was losing money, no one would argue that they weren't too low.

    I can't directly relate it to search monopoly, though, since technically Apple or Samsung could buy youtube and play the same "oh youtube isn't profitable" while competitors go bancrupt, but it does feel like abuse.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:56AM (#38249406)

    Google is not the only company providing a search engine, and Google cannot vendor-lock anybody. What is the problem?

    Also, how come Microsoft has been allowed to get away with brazen monopolistic abuse, 100 times worse than anything Google could possibly do, for decades?

    For example, Microsoft was caught, red handed, bribing officials during the OOXML scam; but that's okay?

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @10:07AM (#38249464)

    Nothing to see here. Move along.

    The probe was prompted by complaints from several rivals including Foundem, eJustice, and Microsoft-owned Ciao, which claimed that Google had unfairly manipulated search results by lowering the rankings of competing services and elevating its own offerings in unpaid results.

  • by khipu (2511498) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @10:42AM (#38249642)

    This is largely based on the misgivings of European publishers and European IT companies who missed the boat entirely. For years, they have enjoyed near-monopolies themselves, often aided by subsidies and government-imposed fees and price fixing. Now Google has been eating their lunch with cheaper offerings on books, music, video, news, and they are recognizing that they are becoming irrelevant.

    This is only one of many attacks they have attempted; they are throwing out shit left and right and see what sticks. A few years ago, they conned the French and German governments into wasting hundreds of millions of Euros on a "Google killer". They have tried pushing legislation that would give European news publishers copyright over the facts contained in news stories. They have tried to set up complicated rules that make digital publishing costly and cumbersome. They have ensured that they get their cut even for books and content they didn't create. They created an anti-Streetview hysteria. Etc.

    If they succeed, the people who will suffer will be the Europeans themselves, who will continue to be subject to price fixing and control of their culture and media by a few European media outlets.

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