Google faces further scrutiny in Europe after more than 100 tech companies – including TripAdvisor and Expedia – jointly called for antitrust action

  • More than 100 tech companies have written to the European Union demanding it take antitrust action against Google over what they call 'unjustified advantages'. 
  • They say Google uses its dominance in search to expand into specialist search services, like Google Flights or Google Travel, at the expense of competitors.
  • EU officials previously handed the search giant a €2.4 billion fine for promoting its own shopping service in search results — but Google's rivals say the firm hasn't taken meaningful action.
  • A host of travel, accommodation, and job vacancy sites – including TripAdvisor and Expedia – say they face 'the imminent risk of being disintermediated by Google.'
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Google faces further antitrust scrutiny in Europe after a coalition of tech companies signed a joint letter bashing the firm's "unjustified advantages" in vertical search.

TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Trivago are among the better known firms on the list, which consists of 135 e-commerce, accommodation, travel, and job vacancy firms from around the world, who claim Google has "[leveraged] its unassailable dominance in general Internet search … to gain a competitive head start."

Their complaint centers on Google's expansion beyond general web search into sector-specific search, such as flights, shopping, and jobs.

In 2017, Google landed a €2.4 billion fine for promoting its own Google Shopping services above rival services.

But according to the letter, "the decision did not lead to Google changing anything meaningful."

The letter zones in on Google's "OneBoxes".

This refers to the prominent squares of text or images that pop up when you search, for example, holiday destinations or the weather in a particular city.

It can apply to the visuals that show up when you look for a stock, an item to buy, or even flights.

Per the letter, Google has "gained unjustified advantages" in new search verticals by taking space for itself that could be used to direct users towards other businesses.

"Such OneBoxes are positioned prominently above all generic search results," the signatories complain. "No competing service may compile and display equivalent boxes within Google's general search results pages, even though they could provide more relevant results than Google's service."

This is costing rival services traffic, they say.

"If Google were allowed to continue the anti-competitive favoring of its own specialized search services until any meaningful regulation takes effect, our services will continue to lack traffic, data and the opportunity to innovate on the merits," the letter reads.

"Until then, our businesses continue to be trapped in a vicious cycle – providing benefits to Google's competing services while rendering our own services obsolete in the long run."

Responding to the letter, a Google spokesperson told Business Insider: "People expect Google to give them the most relevant, high quality search results that they can trust."

They added: "They do not expect us to preference specific companies or commercial rivals over others, or to stop launching helpful services which create more choice and competition for Europeans."

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