Google has come out fighting in its EU antitrust case, claiming that imposing a fine on the company would be “inappropriate.”
The search engine giant is accused of altering its results to favour its own shopping service, something that the European Commission claims damages competition.
Google believes that as its search service is offered free-of-charge, there is no basis for any kind of EU sanction, as there is no trading relationship in place between the company and its users. If Google is found guilty by the Commission, it could face a fine in the region of $6.6 billion.
"The statement of objections [filed by the Commission] fails to take proper account of the fact that search is provided for free,” Google writes in a document seen by Reuters. “A finding of abuse of dominance requires a 'trading relationship' as confirmed by consistent case law. No trading relationship exists between Google and its users.”
The EU investigation has been ongoing for five years now, and shows no sign of reaching a conclusion any time soon, despite the Commission’s final decision being expected at the end of the month. Google has also been critical of the EU enforcer for not explaining why a third package of concessions was rejected earlier this year and believes that the co-operation shown throughout the inquiry should also mitigate against a fine.
Overall, it looks like a protracted legal battle is set to ensue, particularly given that Google has already prepared a document more than 100 pages long in defence of its practices. Representatives of the company have suggested that the EU’s decision rests on flimsy legal foundations.
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“The theory on which the [EU’s] preliminary conclusions rest is so ambiguous that the Commission itself concluded three times that the concern had been resolved.”