Google got shopped?


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As debates about big tech heat up, one of the talking points has been the decision of the European Commission to impose a record €2.42 billion fine on Google for abusing its dominance as a search engine by giving illegal advantage to its own comparison shopping service.

The decision took 7 years to make and is now on appeal.  But Google is not alone in disagreeing with it.

Some experts argue that the way in which Google’s search engine dealt with rival comparison shopping sites doesn’t fit neatly into any category of abuse recognised under European competition law.  More fundamentally, critics say that the Commission focussed too much on harm (unfairness even) to competitors and not enough on possible harm to consumers.

Adding to the controversy is that the US Federal Trade Commission has investigated the same conduct and found Google did not have a case to answer.

Professor Pinar Akman, Director of the Centre for Business Law and Practice at the University of Leeds, is an expert on Europe’s abuse of dominance law and has studied the case closely. Some of her research has been funded by Google but the views she expresses are her own.

In this episode of Competition Lore, Pinar explains why the Commission’s decision should be seen, at best, as novel. She reflects on why the US FTC reached a different view on the same conduct and points out the problems with the remedy of equal treatment with which Google has had to comply.

If you would like to read the European Commission’s decision in the Google shopping case, here are links to:

The decision in full (beware it is 215 pages long!)

The summary of the decision

The Commission’s press release about the decision

And if you would like to read what Pinar has written on the case, here are links to:

A detailed analysis

An abbreviated version

You may also enjoy watching or listening to a live debate held by Intelligence Squared and the BBC in London on the motion: “Break Up the Tech Giants”, in which Pinar was a speaker against the motion:

Featuring regular cut-through interviews with leading thinkers, movers and shakers, Competition Lore is a podcast series that engages us all in a debate about the transformative potential and risks of digitalised competition.

Join Caron Beaton-Wells, Professor in Competition Law at the University of Melbourne, to tackle what it means to participate as a competitor, consumer or citizen in a digital economy and society.

Competition Lore is produced by Written & Recorded.

Competition Lore