Silicon Valley giant Google has intentionally used content from competitors and threatened them with exclusion from the search engine’s range when asked to stop doing, if a recently leaked 2012 U.S. Federal Trade Commission report is to be believed. The antitrust report was mistakenly leaked after being sent to the Wall Street Journal instead of another unrelated document the publication requested.
The 2012 report details how Google used content and data from rival companies such as Yelp, Amazon or Trip Advisor illegally to improve its own sites – such as copying the Amazon ratings system for example – and it also favored its own sites within its widely used search engine.
The FTC paper also suggests that when confronted by these companies about the illegal use of their content, Google threatened them with exclusion of their sites from the search engine, an attitude that the report considered as harmful towards consumers and innovation. It also stated that Google imposed restrictions on sites using its own search engine directly related to the possibility of using rival engines – such as Yahoo Search or Microsoft’s Bing – a practice considered to represent an unfair use of monopoly.
This bring into question the reason for which FTC commissioners chose to drop the investigation in 2013 in a unanimous vote, in exchange for Google committing to changes regarding use of content. The report clearly suggests Google using unfair business practices and even bullying to undermine and subdue competition.
But since its U.S. acquittal, trade regulators from all over the world – Argentina, Canada, India or Taiwan – have openly started to investigate the company’s approach to competition, with maybe the most vehement opposition coming from within the European Union. Investigation of Google business practices by the EU is underway for more than five years, with the promises of change from the American giant being considered insufficient; however, no measures were taken as of yet against it.
Catalonian lawmaker and EU Parliament member Ramon Tremosa i Balcells – an outspoken opponent of Google – snubbed the idea of EU opposition to Google being just a case of protectionism against a successful US company. The conflict continues as investigation has been transitioned to new European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestaeger.
Image Source: CapitalOTC