Google dismissed European Union charges that it abused its dominant position as Europe’s top search engine, downplaying its role as gatekeeper of the Internet.
The European Commission, whose formal charges could impose a fine in excess of USD 6 billion against the Mountain View, California-based company, also plans to open a separate anti-trust investigation into Google’s Android operating system, which dominates the global mobile phone market.
“While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways — and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark,” Google Search senior vice president Amit Singhal said on the firm’s official blog.
“While in many ways it’s flattering to be described as a gatekeeper, the facts don’t actually bear that out.”
It stressed that people now have “more choice than ever before” when it comes to getting information, thanks to a variety of search engines, specialized services, growing social media use, people going directly to their favorite sites and mobile users going to chosen websites or apps.
The Commission, which polices EU competition policy, said it had sent a formal “Statement of Objections” to Google charging it with “systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages.”
An EU probe will also focus on whether Google’s mobile operating system Android was involved in “anti-competitive” agreements or “abused a possible dominant position” among mobile services,” a Commission statement said.
Android vice president of engineering Hiroshi Lockheimer insisted that the operating system “has been a key player in spurring this competition and choice, lowering prices and increasing choice for everyone,” in a now crowded market featuring more than 18,000 devices.
“We are thankful for Android’s success and we understand that with success comes scrutiny,” he said.
“But it’s not just Google that has benefited from Android’s success.
“The Android model has let manufacturers compete on their unique innovations. Developers can reach huge audiences and build strong businesses. And consumers now have unprecedented choice at ever-lower prices.”