Last updated: 12:12 PM ET, Mon April 20 2015

EU’s Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google Expands Into Travel Space

Travel Technology | Ryan Rudnansky | April 20, 2015

EU’s Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google Expands Into Travel Space

Google’s practices on its search engine may not be suspect enough for the Federal Trade Commission, but the European Commission and numerous travel companies see things differently.

After an investigation that lasted more than four years, European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager brought formal antitrust charges against Google last week.

A major issue for travel companies such as TripAdvisor and Expedia is that Google is placing its own shopping sites ahead of its online shopping competitors in search results, regardless of what kind of traffic its sites are receiving. Google has long said that it won’t do such things, giving companies the impression that if they had enough organic search traffic (or paid Google to be bumped up) they would be placed in the appropriate spot in the search rankings. Instead, Google is ranking itself ahead of them regardless, and doing so free of charge (after all, Google doesn’t have to pay anything to place its sites prominently if it chooses to do so).

Google Flights and Google Hotel Finder are major shopping services that are drawing complaints from travel companies (although, it should be noted that Google Flights has also received a lot of praise for its usability and includes many direct booking links to airlines’ official websites).

This isn’t the first time that the European Commission has cracked down on a technology superpower. Microsoft Corp.—which did a similar thing with its web browser and media player—paid roughly $2.3 billion in fines over the course of a decade after allegations of anticompetitive practices.

Vestager isn’t playing games—that’s for sure. Keep in mind, she has only been the European Union competition commissioner since November (replacing Joaquin Almunia). She’s not only investigating Google’s practices regarding shopping services and travel products, she’s also going after practices related to Google Maps and Google’s Android software.

The European Commission’s antitrust lawsuit also brings the FTC into further question. A recently leaked report unveiled that FTC commissioners dropped an antitrust investigation in 2013, despite FTC staffers urging the FTC to file an antitrust lawsuit.  

Google’s search engine has long been praised by many as the premier search engine in the world, but recent allegations and findings have brought the search engine’s reliability and trustworthiness into question.


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