FairSearch - for the right result

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Questions for Eric Schmidt

 In the coming days, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt will meet with European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to discuss the five-year-old antitrust investigation against Google. Reading Mr Schmidt’s recent speech in Berlin and more recent blogs, one has to come to the sad conclusion that the case remains at square one – at least from Google’s point of view as there appears no willingness on Google’s side to resolve the case outside the courts.

Fairsearch has put together the following series of fundamental questions that Mr Schmidt might like to finally answer during his stay in Brussels:

  • Google’s dominance: Do you agree that your longstanding 90+% market share and other factors that protect your powerful market position mean that you are dominant in online search, and therefore carry special obligations to ensure fair competition under EU antitrust law?
  • Google’s search manipulation: Why does Google give preference to its own products and services over those of rivals? Does Google believe it has a right under the law to do that? Is that not anti-competitive?
  • Consumer harm: Are Google’s own services by nature the best and the most helpful to consumers, which could justify that only Google’s own vertical search services appear prominently on the first Google search results page? A FT study found on the contrary that consumers pay higher prices as a result of Google promoting its own products and demoting rival services, see FT article “Google criticised as product listing adverts push up prices” in the Financial Times, Sun 24 November 2013
  • Data scale: Does walling off data and blocking competitors from gaining data scale give Google a competitive advantage?
  • Google’s expansion into other areas: Is it appropriate for a heavily dominant company to undertake activities which leverage its huge dominance from one market into another?
  • Time for a Statement of Objections?  Don’t you agree that after three years of settlement talks in which Google never once put forward a proposal that would have ended its market abuse, a meaningful voluntary settlement is a hopeless exercise?
  • The proposed remedy: Would it be a huge problem if the European Commission moves to a principle-based equal treatment remedy, because that is the only thing that is future-proof. How would you think that can be formulated?