Google case: A turning point in competition rules enforcement

Joaquín Almunia, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Competition, gave a press conference on 13 December following a decision of the EC which renders legally binding the commitments offered by Apple and four international publishers - Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., USA), Harper Collins (News Corp., USA), Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing, France), Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck (Germany; owner of inter alia Macmillan), to stop following competition breaching practices.

Joaquín Almunia, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Competition, gave a press conference on 13 December following a decision of the EC which renders legally binding the commitments offered by Apple and four international publishers – Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., USA), Harper Collins (News Corp., USA), Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing, France), Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck (Germany; owner of inter alia Macmillan) – to stop following competition breaching practices.

Enforcing fair competition in the fast-moving digital markets, like in the Google case, is a fight against time. If the antitrust procedures take the long way of legal battles before the European courts, the possible competition law breaches may purport billions to the culpable party.

That is why, Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy, while presenting on 21 May 2012 the preliminary conclusions of the antitrust investigation into allegations that Google had abused a dominant market position, said clearly: “I believe that these fast-moving markets would particularly benefit from a quick resolution of the competition issues identified”.

In case however that those proceedings take a long time to give results and secure fair competition, the public in general and the companies in particular which were touched from the unduly behaviour of a market leader, expect that the European Commission will impose fines analogically related to the illegal profits, pocketed by the culpable party, even if this last one agrees to stop exercising the activities proved detrimental to others.

Following the facts

In November 2010 the European Commission launched an antitrust investigation, into allegations that Google had abused a dominant market position. These complaints had been filed by a number of firms, which considered themselves aggrieved by Google’s practices. Fortunately the Commission didn’t restrict its investigation to these cases, but included in its research other topics too.

In May 2012, Joaquín Almunia, spelled out the four competition concerns identified by the Commission in the course of this investigation, as presented below:

“First, in its general search results on the web, Google displays links to its own vertical search services…differently than it does for links to competitors.

Our second concern relates to the way Google copies content from competing vertical search services and uses it in its own offerings… This practice may impact for instance travel sites or sites providing restaurant guides.

Our third concern relates to agreements between Google and partners on the websites of which Google delivers search advertisements…The agreements result in de facto exclusivity requiring them to obtain all or most of their requirements of search advertisements from Google…

Our fourth concern relates to restrictions that Google puts to the portability of online search advertising campaigns from its platform AdWords to the platforms of competitors”.

Not a few points by any count.

Then in December 2012 Almunia issued a statement saying: “After meeting Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, today in Brussels, I have decided to continue with the process towards reaching an agreement based on Article 9 of the EU Antitrust regulation…On the basis of the progress made, I now expect Google to come forward with a detailed commitment text, in January 2013”.

The strategy

Following the whole story one can easily understand that the strategy followed by Google was not to counter the Commission head on. In the face of it, the company shared Commission’s worries for a swift settlement of the case, without taking refuge to courts. A traditional legal route would presumably delay the restoration of fair competition in those digital markets.

What if, however, Google changes its strategy in January 2013 and instead of showing a collaborative attitude with the EU authorities, decides to take its case to the European Court? In this way Google may gain some more years, exploiting its allegedly dominant position in the market.

Some analysts take this hypothesis even further, by alleging that Google can use the Court “card”, to negotiate with the EU Commission for a lower fine. In any case January 2013 is here. Depending on what Google does, the entire EU antitrust apparatus will have a good lesson to learn, and use this new knowledge for future similar cases.

All in all, digital markets are a completely new “animal”. They have fast gained huge economic and social dimensions, surpassing the most favourable predictions. Regulating them is an entirely new task, overshadowing the traditional legal proceedings. The European authorities must try their best to catch up. It’s exactly like what the digital police digital are doing, when run to catch up with the technics developed by criminals.

The European Sting is here, setting as its task to follow closely those brave new developments.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

UN expresses concern following wave of street protests in Iraq and elsewhere

EU leaders agree on 2030 Climate and Energy Package: is “flexible” brave enough?

Topic: Mental Health in times of pandemic: What can each individual do to lessen the burden?

Governments should step up their efforts to give people skills to seize opportunities in a digital world

This crisis cannot be confronted with statistics

Parliament to vote on new European Commission on 27 November

What brands get wrong about China – and how to put it right

Climate Change: A Healthcare Emergency

Iran protests: Live ammunition reportedly used, says UN human rights office

Handwashing is not just for coronavirus – how good hygiene could help reduce antibiotic use

OECD’s Gurría calls for overhaul of economic thinking to address global challenges

MEPs Anti-fraud votes for more votes?

Much more than a ‘lifeline’ for millions of households, remittances can spur global growth, says UN agency

Longer hours, more emails and shorter meetings – working from home in the time of COVID

Austria, Italy, Portugal, Spain receive €279m after natural disasters in 2019

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal is bad for US business. Here’s why.

UN’s Bachelet addresses progress and setbacks in human rights worldwide

Guterres underscores UN role in achieving a free, secure Internet

Coronavirus COVID-19 wipes $50 billion off global exports in February alone, as IMF pledges support for vulnerable nations

Draghi, Letta: All Eurozone countries must be able to borrow like Germany

Antitrust: Commission imposes interim measures on Broadcom in TV and modem chipset markets

ECB: Reaching the limits of its mandate to revive the Eurozone economy

Coronavirus could trigger a hunger pandemic – unless urgent action is taken

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “Employment contracts today are a reducing share of the workforce”, scientists worry in Davos that the 4th industrial revolution threatens employment globally

First peaceful transfer of power in DR Congo ‘an extraordinary opportunity’ for advancing rights

Parliament boosts consumer rights online and offline

Training for staff in early childhood education and care must promote practices that foster children’s learning, development and well-being

Swiss vote approves nationwide paternity leave

The best and worst parenting advice I’ve heard, by a leading psychologist

Data is the oil of the digital world. What if tech giants had to buy it from us?

CEOs say these 4 factors will shape business in 2020

Citing public anger and youth activism, OECD Secretary-General urges governments to heed calls for climate action

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Metallo by Aurubis

Venezuelan exodus to Ecuador reaches record levels: UN refugee agency steps up aid

Achieving a European Education Area by 2025 and resetting education and training for the digital age

Idlib deal could save three million ‘from catastrophe’ says UN chief, as militants are urged to lay down arms

Long-term EU budget: MEPs slam cuts to culture and education

Smart cities must pay more attention to the people who live in them

David Attenborough: The planet can’t cope with overpopulation

Only one in five countries has a healthcare strategy to deal with climate change

168 hours left for MEPs – ECOFIN Council to deliver a Banking Union

Kosovo elections: ‘Most significant change’ in 12 years, Security Council hears

These deepwater fish farms could help natural stocks recover

To what extent are our moral standards responsible for killing people?

A shortened EU Summit admits failures, makes risky promises

These airports are now opening their doors to non-fliers

Syria: Ease suffering, save lives, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator tells Security Council

So, what is your favourite Sustainable Development Goal?

COP24: Huge untapped potential in greener construction, says UN environment agency

World Malaria Day: 7 things to know about the deadly disease

Yemen update: UNICEF chief condemns attack in Taiz that claims lives of seven children

European Confederation of Junior Enterprises hosts in Geneva the Junior Enterprise World Conference

GREXIT final wrap-up: nobody believed Aesop’s boy who cried wolf so many times

French election: Will France vote for a reformed or no EU?

These are the 3 key skill sets workers will need to learn by 2030

2021-2027 EU Budget: €378,1 billion to benefit all regions

Bias in AI is a real problem. Here’s what we should do about it

After Rio Grande tragedy, UNICEF chief highlights ‘dire’ detention centres on US-Mexico border

AIESEC @ European Business Summit 2014: European Youth, Change Now Patiently

Medical education during COVID-19 pandemic

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s