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Google: Dear EU – search is free, stop complaining

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Google antitrust

Google has officially responded to the European Union’s antitrust investigation into its alleged monopolistic practices.

As reported by Reuters, the California-based company’s formal response takes the form of a 130-page missive which, among other things, hits back at claims it abuses its dominance in advertising contracts

Pointing out that it was offering a free search service, the internet giant was responding to the European Commission’s charge sheet, issued in April.

Google point to the necessity of a ‘trading relationship’ between it and its users in order for an abuse of dominance to take place, something which the company says does not exist due to the search service being free.

With the prospect of a hefty fine in the area of $6.6 billion looming for the company, the response also points out that Google was willing to settle the case with concessions last year, making any financial punishment inappropriate.

The European Commission seemed to suggest that it was willing to accept a third settlement offer from Google last year, before announcing that it required more money from the company.

The charge sheet issued by the EU earlier this year was the product of a five-year investigation and set out objections to Google’s online practices.

It included the allegation that it was distorting search results to benefit its own shopping service.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s chief competition Commissioner, told the Wall Street journal last month that the ongoing investigation into the company remains a top priority.

Related: Google and the EU: investigation explained

Google’s antitrust issues have previously centred around the positioning of its own products within Google Searches.

But the current EU investigation looks at more than search results and addresses each facet of Google’s business individually, treating them all as separate cases.

Advertising and search are a big part of the investigation, but also under scrutiny is the company’s Android OS for the bundling of Google-branded apps.

The 130-page response is reported to claim that the EU has not followed proper procedure in bringing its case.

A decision on the case is not expected until late next year. Any finding against Google could then be challenged in the EU’s court of appeals.

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