Roundup of News Reactions to EU Google Antitrust Action

With European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager formally accusing the company of violating antitrust law and announcng a separate investigation of Google’s potential abuses of control of Android and other mobile practices, there was a deluge of coverage across the media

Many highlighted the protracted proceedings that Google will face and the likely expansion of charges as the investigations continue:

  • Vivienne Walt at Fortune wrote Google’s legal woes in Europe might only just be beginning.  The investigations are “serious indeed, and potentially extremely expensive.” Further, “Vestager’s announcement means that Google is now thrust headlong into a protracted legal wrangle in Brussels, which could well result in the company having to pay hefty fines.”
  • The Economist's Google: the end of the beginning argued “The case could drag on—ultimately in court—for ages before Google is fined or forced to change its ways. With the Android investigation starting too, Google could be in the regulatory mire for years.”
  • Reuters TIMELINE-Next steps in EU's Google case noted that “many observers question whether Vestager will be willing to accept any offer Google would make. If she does not, she can order it to change its methods and fine it up to 10 percent of its annual global sales of $66 billion.” 
  • In USA TODAY's Google faces trouble abroadBoston University law professor Keith Hylton said the “European process is not one in which American tech companies have prevailed."
  • In Mashable's Google's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky said "I think Google is likely 75% [****]ed… Nothing's totally [****]ed, but... they're at a precipice, and no one is calling them on it." 

Others hailed the action as critical in taking on the rise of globally dominant companies like Google:

  • James Ball at The Guardian argued in Let’s challenge Google while we still can, “Very few government bodies in the world [have] the scale to truly hold the largest internet giants to account – perhaps only the US and the EU...We are entering an era of near-stateless global giants, several of which will gain the power to act as a monopoly.”
  • Richard Waters of the Financial Times in Regulating technology’s present will help to fashion its future arges that regulatory neglect allowed Google to grow to its present dominance unchecked and shows regulators should not " should give up and just pray that market forces will do their work for them."
  • The Register’s Andrew Orlowski argued in What did Google do so wrong to get a slapping from the EU?: “Ultimately US officials appear to have accepted that Google's vision of the internet is the best one on offer for Americans. Europe hasn't.”

Others emphasized the impact on the US and spurring possible action by regulators here:

  • Free State Foundation in Is the FCC Chairman Considering Going After Google?) said "inside sources say Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is considering whether the FCC also should act to curb alleged abuses of the search giant’s market power here at home..FCC insiders say that Wheeler is concerned not only about the impact of Google’s actions on Google’s struggling existing competitors, but also about the adverse impact on the ‘next Google,’ the one still in the garage.”
  • Eric Clemons, a Wharton School professor, argued in the Huffington Post's The EU Files Complaints Against Google, and It's About Time!: “Google has committed so many abuses, over so many years, that it has hard to know where the European Commission should start...Eventually even Google's cozy ties with the current administration in Washington will not be enough to protect it, and there will be litigation in the US as well.” 

Some of the usual suspects tried to downplay the probe, either accusing Europe of protectionism or arguing the situation was fundamentally different here in the United States:

  • The Wall Street Journal reported that as “Google Inc.prepares to fight charges that it has violated Europe’s competition rules, lawyers here are already limbering up for the next battle: big data.” In the piece, Maurits Dolmans, an antitrust lawyer with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in Brussels argued: “Big data are ubiquitous, widely available and of fleeting value.” Further, according to Dolmans: “Search engines such as Bing and DuckDuckGo ‘are well beyond the size where scale-effects matter.’”
  • But Commissioner Vestager herself rejected those arguments in Fast FT's EU antitrust chief rejects anti-US Google claim

Overall, the EU action has done the major service of legitimizing all complaints about Google's monopolisitc actions and it does seem inevitable that the debate will increase in the United States itself, where the criticism of Google has been so much more muted than in Europe.z


Politics/Governance Commerce

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