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Google antitrust probes are “high priority”, says EU chief

Europe’s antitrust chief has spoken out about investigations into Google operations.

Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner for the EU, has described the scrutiny as “high priority”.

The commissioner, who took up her position just over a year ago, spearheaded the ongoing investigation into Google’s Android operating system.

“The Google case is about misuse of a dominant position – to promote yourself in a neighbouring market not on your merits, but because you can,” said Vestager, speaking in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Vestager continued: “The one that I opened myself on – Android – we also give high priority, but it’s a different creature than the Google case because people don’t think so much about the operating system on their phone.”

She added: “But those who produce phones, sell phones or develop applications are very preoccupied with the operating system. So we give that a high priority.”

But Android – which is also being probed by the FTC – isn’t the only focus of the antitrust chief. The EU is currently progressing with a number of investigations into Google’s potential abuse of market position.

“We have the shopping case where we have the statement of objections, we have Google’s answer and now we’re analysing that,” explained Vestager.

The antitrust chief is referring to the investigation into Google’s alleged promotion of its shopping services over competitors.

“It is high priority but it will take some time because it is analysis and data comparison et cetera, which is challenging,” said the EU competition chief.

Vestager also mentioned other ongoing probes, including the “advertising investigation, the scraping”, and the “issues parallel to the shopping case”.

She also says that the shopping case may have similarities “when we eventually look at maps and travel and a number of other related services, because the complaints sort of tell the same story.”

The antitrust chief describes how while the cases all have “the name Google” in common, “apart from that they are very different”.

“And therefore I do not think of it as one Google case but literally as different investigations and different cases,” she continues.

Vestager adds: “People feel or experience that they are either being demoted, or Google preferences its own services.”

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However, the EU boss was keen to point out that having probed Google once doesn’t necessarily make other inquiries significantly easier.

“There is no such thing as you have done one, you’ve done them all,” she explains. “On the other hand, if you look at the shopping case then there will be insights that will probably also be valid when it comes to other neighbouring markets.”

The commissioner adds: “But it’s a very fine balance, because we cannot do one case and then say the rest is the same. In a union of law and with due process, this cannot be the case.”

Do you think the EU should take a tougher stance on Google? Let us know in the comments.

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