Via the E.U. case explainer
Google and the European Union have been in an antagonistic relationship for years now, whether it's about the right to be forgotten, the transfer of data to the United States for processing, or Google's cooperation with U.S. mass surveillance programs. Now Google has issued a 130-page response to antitrust charges leveled by the E.U., indicating that the tech giant is prepping for a long fight with European regulators.
As reported by James Vincent in the Verge, Google was accused by the E.U. of monopolistic practices earlier this year. The accusation was that Google was artificially favoring Google's own services and partners in search results, and driving traffic away from competitors. Regulators were threatening fines of more than $6 billion against Google.
It is important to remember that, according to the Washington Post, while Google has a dominant position in search in the United States, with almost 70% of searches going through Google, in Europe the number is 90%, so their position is close to an actual monopoly in the E.U.
Google and E.U. regulators entered into negotiations to resolve the conflict, and seemed to have reached agreements until Google accused regulators of making an about-face on certain issues and demanding more money, leading to Google's 130-page legal rebuke of the charges.
Among the arguments that Google makes in their response is the interesting proposition that because Google searches are free, there is therefore "no trading relationship ... between Google and its users." Additionally, Google accuses the E.U. of failing to cite any kind of precedent for their complaint, and that due to this, Google doesn't "what the rules are" in this situation.
Vincent also points out a clever reversal by Google. The company is claiming the E.U. wants to decrease the quality of Google's search results by forcing Google to "subsidize it's competitors." But, as Vincent notes, "the EU's original complaint ... claims the opposite is true, and that Google frequently ignored quality in order to bolsters its own failing services."
It's all very tricky. And very, very lengthy. The E.U. won't make a decision on the case until next year, and after that Google can always move the case to the European court of appeals, a process that could take another five years. In a way, Google's 130-page response may have just been a warning to the E.U. that they're willing to fight this thing out, or it could be an attempt to get regulators to improve its settlement offer. But if it isn't and Google really does want to drag this out, then this battle will likely continue for a long, long time.