Google dominates global search, but tech is notoriously fast-changing and users ultimately fickle, so when a major anti-competition lawsuit is thrown into the mix, could it spell the demise of the internet giant?
Following on from our earlier blog post, the European Union has filed an anti-competition lawsuit against Google, accusing the world’s most popular internet search company of abuse in search results, stifling competition and leading to fewer choices for consumers across the continent.
The EU in particular singles out online shopping as one area where the company gives prominence to its own services over that of rivals. Google denies the charges and says its own ecommerce platform – Google Shopping – is nowhere near as successful as other online retailers, such as Amazon and eBay.
The legal move by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU and where its anti-trust division is located, comes after several years of investigation into the alleged bad practices of Google, and amid complaints submitted to the body by other top American tech firms, including Microsoft.
If the EU’s complaint against Google is upheld – a scenario that is not expected to be decided for several years, as additional investigations will now take place as well as attempts to negotiate with Google to reach a settlement – the company could face fines of up to €6 billion.
It could also mean a fundamental change to the way Google operates in Europe, one of its biggest markets, with over 90% market share (compared to just over 67% in the US). This would potentially impact online marketing on an enormous scale, as many firms are reliant on Google’s dominance to reach vast audiences and build their brands.
The effects might also extend to Google’s Android operating system, which powers more smartphones and tablets than any other, including Apple’s iOS, with more than 1 billion devices using the free software in 2014 according to the International Data Corporation. Android is also being investigated as part of the EU probe.
Google appears confident that it’s not doing anything wrong in its European operations, which are headquartered in the Irish capital, Dublin. In an internal memo obtained by the tech site re/code, Google said that while the EU lawsuit was “obviously very disappointing news”, the company believed it had “a very strong case, with especially good arguments when it comes to better services for users and increased competition”.