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Google scorns E.U. antitrust charges (well it would, wouldn’t it?)

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European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager Emmanuel Dunand — AFP/Getty Images

Google Inc. (GOOG) has poured scorn on the European Union’s claims that it abuses its dominant position in the search market in its first official response to the allegations.

The European Commission’s antitrust division had published a ‘Statement of Objections’, or SO, against Google’s business practises in April, alleging that it used its search algorithm to promote its other businesses such as Google Shopping. The SO had built largely on complaints from other U.S. companies who felt prejudiced by the actions of the Mountain View-based giant. (Click here for a brief explainer of some key objections as summarised in a study commissioned by Yelp Inc.)

“We believe that the SO’s preliminary conclusions are wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics,” Google’s General Counsel Kent Walker said in a blog post accompanying the official response.

He said Google’s own traffic analysis showed that it hadn’t stopped other shopping aggregators from reaching customers.

 

Google’s critics rebutted the claims as a predictable effort to redefine the problem in their own terms to support their claims that no harm had been done.

“The truth, as in previous cases, is that the Commission has properly defined the market into which Google has leveraged its overwhelming dominance in search, namely the shopping (price) comparison market,” the blog FairSearch wrote in an analysis of Google’s responses. “Google has decimated competition in that market by preferencing its own product comparison service in its search results, and consumers have been harmed — and paid higher prices – because Google has cornered the shopping comparison market.”

Google’s response to the Commission didn’t include anything about a parallel E.U. investigation into suspected abuse of its ownership of the Android operating system, which is at a less advanced stage.

Google’s reaction is as expected, and strengthens expectations that Brussels faces a long, hard slog in making its charges stick. The case is Europe’s biggest antitrust action against a U.S. technology company since its epic battles with Microsoft Corp. (INTC) in the 1990s and 2000s–two cases which did much to erode the market power of both companies.