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Google rival slams EU Commission over antitrust settlement proposals

Loek Essers | July 24, 2014
Meanwhile, the Commission is considering revising the terms of the settlement, according to media reports.

"It is now apparent that many of the spurious arguments the Commission has been making in defence of Google's proposals were adopted wholesale from Google arguments," it said.

The Commission's letter makes clear the only concession regarding search manipulation was the introduction of additional paid search links, while the Commission in its preliminary assessment found that paid search cannot be a substitute for natural search, Foundem said. However, the Commission now tries to claim that paid rival links are somehow a substitute for the free natural search traffic Google is anti-competitively diverting, it said.

As a direct result of these proposals, Google would take sole possession of the free, relevance-based, natural search traffic that has always been the lifeblood of the Internet, it said. Meanwhile, Google's competitors would still have to contend with the systematic self-preferencing and anti-competitive demotions and exclusions that the Commission instructed Google to remedy, it added.

Foundem also slammed the Commission for giving it only four weeks to respond to the letter.

"The gratuitously brief period complainants have been granted to respond is in stark contrast to the seemingly endless extensions and amended deadlines the Commission has granted to Google over the last five years," Foundem said, adding that this inequity is particularly troubling because Google has exploited every delay to entrench, extend, and escalate its abuse.

Moreover, the Commission repeatedly refused to provide complainants with any insight into its reasoning or thinking during the settlement negotiations, Foundem said.

In contrast, said Foundem, it provided Google with an extraordinary degree of access to documents during the negotiations.

This access appears to have included handing Google complainant's responses to the Commission without concealing the companies' names, Foundem said. This was "particularly reckless" given the fear of retaliation expressed repeatedly by complainants throughout the investigation, it said.

Because of the "extraordinary volume of fundamentally inaccurate or entirely baseless assertions contained in the Commission's letter," Foundem said the Commission has no choice but to abandon Google's "counterfeit remedies." Instead it suggested the Commission chalk up the last two years to experience, and pursue remedies based on the rationale and principles set out in the Commission's preliminary assessment or its earlier statement of objections.

 

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