The European Union is setting up for round two against Google in the antitrust case, but the new head Commissioner of Competition Margrethe Vestager might be in for a tough fight, with Google already ready with its defense.
When the EU brings its antitrust case to Google’s doorstep, it will have 60 days to respond. The allegations are still unknown, but it is suspected the commission will claim Google Search and Android are both anti-competitive and promote Google’s own services.
Even though the former claim on search has been fought over by the EU commission for four years, the new focus on Android has only recently cropped up. It shares the same allegations as the Russian anti-monopoly department claimed, when Yandex filed a claim against Google earlier this year.
“The Commission staff sets out its preliminary arguments so that the company in question can respond,” said Google General Counsel Kent Walker in a leaked memo. “Expect some of the criticism to be tough. But remember, it’s also an opportunity for Google to tell our side of the story. The back-and-forth over an SO can take some time (even a year or two), and in a number of cases has resulted in the Commission modifying their claims or settling the case. If the two sides cannot settle their differences, the Commission issues an infringement decision, which can be appealed in court.”
Walker continues to say Google has a strong case against the antitrust claims. In the search market, it will use old rivals Yahoo and Bing as showings of competitiveness, and new search from Amazon, eBay and travel sites in Germany, France and the UK.
The claim is that due to customers going directly to Amazon for shopping rather than Google search, it counts as a competitor in the market. It might not hold up in the courtroom, but Google will make a fine argument for it.
While it continues to argue over search issues, Google has another plan for Android. It will go for the open-source angle, claiming it has lowered prices, opened up developer opportunities for £5 billion in revenue payouts and a vibrant ecosystem of products.
It will also fight the claim it preloads Google apps on Android devices, by showing the example of Samsung preloading Facebook, Microsoft and other apps bought through partnerships.
Google might be hated by European governments, but even US President Barack Obama has shown annoyance at the EU’s repeated attacks on US corporations. Google might take the offensive if it is able to fend off the first accusations, which should be made public in the next week.