Thursday 12 November 2020 9:02 am

Google critics call for EU to fast-track competition crackdown

A group of 165 companies and industry bodies has urged the EU to accelerate its crackdown on Google’s alleged anti-competitive practices, warning planned new laws will take too long to come into force.

In a joint letter to EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager, seen by Reuters, the critics accused Google of unfairly favouring its own services on its web searches.

Read more: EU to ban tech firms from promoting their own services in new crackdown

They said the tech giant’s services such as accommodation, travel and jobs were given preferential placement and called for swift action to stop the practice.

The signatories included longstanding Google critics such as Yelp, Expedia and Trivago, as well as roughly 30 industry associations.

“While we compete amongst ourselves for the best consumer experience, there is one common competitor that does not compete fairly — Google,” the letter read.

“Google gained unjustified advantages through preferentially treating its own services within its general search results pages by displaying various forms of grouped specialised search results [so-called One Boxes],” it added.

One Boxes are separate display boxes that show information and images related to a search query at the top of results.

The critics accused Google of unfairly using this function to promote its own services above those of its competitors.

A Google spokesperson hit back at the allegations, saying: “People expect Google to give them the most relevant, high quality search results that they can trust.

“They do not expect us to preference specific companies or commercial rivals over others, or to stop launching helpful services which create more choice and competition for Europeans.”

The signatories, who said they were the largest group ever to write to EU competition regulators, called for swift action, warning that upcoming legislation would take too long to come into effect.

Vestager is due to announce the new Digital Markets Act, aimed at preventing tech giants from unfairly promoting their own services, on 2 December.

But the draft laws will need to be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament — a process that could take more than a year.

Read more: Google has until 19 December to respond to antitrust lawsuit

The calls come a month after the US Department of Justice filed a major antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing it of breaking the law by using its market to fend off rivals.

The suit, which Google has dismissed as “deeply flawed”, centres on deals brokered by the tech giant to ensure it is the default search engine on devices made by other manufacturers.