'Google is in denial': Rivals throw down oral hearing challenge over antitrust case

The Microsoft backed lobby Icomp says Google should show up at an oral hearing if it's so confident of its claims denial

A Microsoft-backed lobby group wants Google to defend itself at on oral hearing, saying its response this week to the European Commission's antitrust charges shows the search company is in denial.

More than five months after the EC filed antitrust charges against Google, saying it harmed competition by using its dominance in search to favour its own vertical search products such as shopping, the company yesterday responded in a blog post and a separate report to the commission.

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Google said Europe's competition regulator botched its analysis of online shopping services, failed to consider the role of rivals in the space like Amazon and eBay, and didn't "provide a clear legal theory to connect its claims with its proposed remedy".

Icomp (the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace), a European Microsoft-backed lobby group, has called on the company to make its case at an oral hearing.

"Today's blog post from Google is, unfortunately, simply another attempt to divert attention away from the devastating impact their self-preferencing has had on the online market, making many of the same old arguments we have seen before," Icomp said in a post called 'Google in Denial'.

"If Google truly believes 'in the interest of promoting user choice and open competition', and in the strengths of its arguments, we would urge them to make their case in front of the Commission and complainants at an oral hearing."

Google has so far avoided the prospect of an oral hearing -- it had the option to participate in one in the 10 weeks the EC gave it to respond to the charges, but the process would also have opened the door for complainants to air their grievances.

One threat hanging over Google in the long term is that the EC may force it to change its algorithm. Currently, that's not part of the Commission's proposed solution to the antitrust case: its remedy only demands Google should treat rival shopping services equally to its own.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Google argued that the only way Europe could demand it change its algorithm was if it proved Google's search results were as essential as utility service.

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