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Google to EU: Antitrust Charges 'Wrong as Matter of Fact, Law and Economics'

The search giant puts out a combative defense to the EU antitrust charges.

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Four months after the European Union charged Google with violating antitrust laws, Google has responded. And the response, filed on Thursday in Brussels, is swift and clear: Google is going to fight.

“We’ve taken seriously the concerns in the European Commission’s Statement of Objections that our innovations are anti-competitive,” Kent Walker, Google SVP and general counsel, said in a statement. “The response we filed today shows why we believe those allegations are incorrect, and why we believe that Google increases choice for European consumers and offers valuable opportunities for businesses of all sizes.”

In a lengthier blog post, Walker argued that the EU case is legally unsound, echoing earlier Google points that bigger competitors like Amazon and eBay dominate online shopping, the heart of the EU suit. He wrote that the suit is “wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics.”

In April, the EU Competition Commission filed its antitrust case against Google for the search company’s comparative shopping product after years of intense negotiations and near-settlements. The EU initially granted Google ten weeks to respond to its statement of objections, but later granted Google two extensions, pushing the deadline to Monday, Aug. 31.

With the charges, the EU could levy fines of up to a tenth of Google’s yearly sales, or $6.6 billion. Margrethe Vestager, the EU antitrust commissioner, said she is considering extending the case to other fields Google operates adjacent to search, such as mapping, photos and advertising products.

When the charges first landed, antitrust experts and companies that had gone through the EU wringer suggested Google’s best option was to settle.

Google attempted to do so in vain with the prior EU competition chief, Joaquin Almunia, a Spanish politician. Almunia and Google sketched settlement arrangements three separate times, with Google building alternative product search results that gave more privileged real estate to competitors. But all three tries were dashed. One ex-Googler who worked on Google Shopping said the process was incredibly draining on the engineering team.

Publicly, Google has kept very quiet since its immediate response to the EU suit, which leaned on Google’s diminished size next to rivals like Amazon and eBay to dismiss the charges. In its only public statements before today, Google’s Matt Brittin, who leads its office in Europe, admitted the company could have been warmer to Europe as the antitrust case boiled.

On Thursday, Walker wrote: “We look forward to discussing our response and supporting evidence with the Commission in the interest of promoting user choice and open competition.”

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