The case of European Commission accuses Google for violating the bloc’s antitrust laws is attracting more and more attention. It is the first time any regulator has filed formal antitrust charges against Google. The heart debase or complaint against Google is on its comparison shopping service called Google Shopping in its general search results page. European Commission along with Google’s competitors including Microsoft, Yelp, Expedia, TripAdvisor and Nokia, proved that Google is giving systematic favorable treatment to its own comparison shopping service that prohibits its competitors’ products and services. (WSJ1, WSJ2)
I don’t think it need more argue on whether Google is dominating or favoring its own Google Shopping. The answer is obviously yes. Take a simple example, when I searched ‘move box’ on Google for my moving, the first, or say the top one result jumping out is Shopping on Google stuff. However, I think a more core question should be, does it matter that Google puts its own shopping service on top on its general search results page?
European Union competition law concerns regulation of competitive markets in the European Union, particularly to ensure that corporations do not create cartels and monopolies that would damage the economic interests of society. And my argument is that though Google browser is in favor of its own shopping service by making it on the top of the search results page, Google does not impede the competition of the on-line shopping market.
In a practical issue, it is usually hard to identify or prove whether a company is dominating a market. The normal way to do it is testing what would be different, especially on consumer welfare prospective, if the company did not monopoly on that market. However, given the company already existed in the market, it is hard to exam what should have been be the result without monopoly.
Luckily, I have an off-the-peg comparative object, China’s on-line shopping market. China, well, blocks the Google searching system in its mainland area primarily because Google could bring too much anti-communist information from the ‘outside’ world, which is not desirable for the current Chinese society. But anyway, if I type ‘move box’ in a Chinese internet (the most popular internet browsers in China include IE, Sohu, 360 and Baidu), usually the shops who pay most for the browser’s company would pump out first. In this case, it is the companies who willing to pay for the browser is in favored by the search system. Actually it is quite similar with Google’s situation. While Google is in favor its own shopping service, an internet without Google is preferring the rich service.
There is no law citing that a company cannot support its own product. While Google is giving systematic favorable treatment to its own shopping service, it does not block others’. A customer could always find an ideal product as long as he is willing to spend time looking through the internet. What is more, if one does not satisfy with Google, he can always switch to another browser if he wants.