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Consumer Watchdog Urges Europe To File Antitrust Charges Against Google

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John M. Simpson

SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today called on European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to file formal charges against Google in the European Commission’s ongoing antitrust investigation of the Internet giant.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit U.S. public interest group said the former Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia’s efforts to reach a deal without filing formal charges produced three unacceptable proposals.

In a letter to Vestager, John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director wrote:

“Without a formal Statement of Objections to motivate Google, the company simply engages in lengthy settlement talks and continues its abusive anticompetitive behavior.  If nothing else, a Statement of Objections will concentrate Google executives’ minds and prompt serious negotiations.  If the Internet giant fails to give an adequate response, the path is open to force changes and levy substantial fines.”

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrvestager041315.pdf

Consumer Watchdog said consumer welfare must be the ultimate test of any antitrust settlement and noted that consumer groups on both side of the Atlantic – BEUC and Consumer Watchdog – had objected to all three previous proposed settlement deals.

“They simply did not resolve the fundamental issue of search manipulation.  The heart of the problem is simple. Google has developed a substantial conflict of interest,” wrote Simpson.  “It no longer has an incentive to steer users to other sites, but rather favors its own services.”

The only way to deal with this conflict is to remove it, Consumer Watchdog said.

“Ideally, there needs to be a separation of Google’s different services and assets,” wrote Simpson. “At a minimum any remedy must insist that Google use an objective, nondiscriminatory mechanism to rank and display all search results – including links to Google products.”

“Three failed settlement proposals from Google during your predecessor’s tenure demonstrate the futility of proceeding without a Statement of Objections. Consumer Watchdog calls on you to file a formal Statement of Objections and commence antitrust proceedings,” Consumer Watchdog’s letter concluded.

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