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L'UE accuse Google Shopping d'"abus" en matière de recherche

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L'Union européenne a déposé une plainte contre Google pour son comportement anticoncurrentiel présumé.

The competition commissioner said she had issued a “statement of objections”, stating that the firm’s promotion of its own shopping links amounted to an abuse of its dominance in search.

Margrethe Vestager a déclaré que Google disposait maintenant de semaines 10 pour répondre.

L'entreprise said it “strongly disagreed” avec les allégations et attend avec impatience de faire son cas.

Vestager a également révélé qu'elle avait lancé une enquête afin de déterminer si la manière dont Google regroupait des applications et des services pour son système d'exploitation Android était injuste.

Le commissaire a déclaré que l'UE continuerait à surveiller d'autres activités de Google dont ses rivaux s'étaient plaints.

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Il fait suite à une enquête de cinq ans sur la société et marque le début d’un processus judiciaire qui pourrait en définitive conduire à des amendes de plusieurs milliards d’euros.

Google compte pour plus de 90% des recherches Web dans l’UE.

‘Preferential treatment’

The European Commission has investigated the antitrust allegations – made by Microsoft, Tripadvisor, Streetmap and others – since 2010.

Among their complaints was an objection to the fact that Google placed adverts from its Shopping service ahead of others’ links in relevant searches.

Ms Vestager said the Commission’s preliminary findings supported the claim that Google “systematically” gave prominence to its own ads, which amounted to an abuse of its dominant position in search.

“I’m concerned that Google has artificially boosted its presence in the comparison shopping market with the result that consumers might not see what is most relevant for them, and that competitors may not get the promotion that their services deserve,” she told a press conference in Brussels.

Ms Vestager said that she was not seeking a wider redesign of Google’s search results or asking it to change its algorithms.

Mais elle a ajouté que l'affaire pourrait créer un précédent qui déterminerait la manière dont l'UE gérait les autres plaintes concernant Google, favorisant ainsi ses propres services de cartographie, d'hôtels et de vols.

Google a rejeté l'idée que son service Shopping fausse le marché.

“While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways – and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark,” wrote its search chief Amit Singhal on the firm’s blog.

“It’s clear that: (a) there’s a ton of competition – including from Amazon and eBay, two of the biggest shopping sites in the world and (b) Google’s shopping results have not the harmed the competition.

“Any economist would say that you typically do not see a ton of innovation, new entrants or investment in sectors where competition is stagnating – or dominated by one player. Yet that is exactly what’s happening in our world.”

Many of Google’s rivals have welcomed the action.

“Google’s abuse of dominance distorts European markets, harms consumers, and makes it impossible for Google’s rivals to compete on a level playing field,” said Icomp, a lobbying group representing some of the complainants.

“We see this statement of objection as a crucial first step towards ensuring that European consumers have access to vibrant and competitive online markets.”

Google pourrait finalement faire face à d'énormes amendes et être condamné à réorganiser ses activités en Europe.

Ces dernières années, la Commission a infligé des sanctions antitrust à d'autres géants de la technologie, en ordonnant à Intel de payer 1.1 milliards d'euros (793m £; 1.2bn $) et X € 2009m Microsoft sous 516.

However, Ms Vestager said she was “open” to Google’s response, and wanted to listen to its case before deciding how to proceed.

Un expert indépendant a déclaré que le problème pourrait prendre des années à résoudre.

“I can’t see that this will be a fast process given the complexity of the subject matter, what’s at stake and the likely level of the fine,” said Paul Henty, a lawyer at Charles Russell Speechlys who has previously worked for the European Commission.

Demande Android

L’UE a également lancé une enquête distincte sur le système d’exploitation Android, utilisé par les smartphones et les tablettes, qui se concentrera sur trois sujets:

  • affirme que Google oblige ou incite les fabricants à préinstaller son propre moteur de recherche, ses applications et d'autres services et exclut les produits concurrents
  • les allégations selon lesquelles Google insiste injustement sur le fait que ses services sont groupés, ce qui signifie que certaines ne peuvent pas être pré-installées sans inclure les autres
  • complaints that the firm is hindering manufacturers from developing alternative versions of Android, which is open source. These are commonly known as “forks”, with Amazon’s Fire OS and Xiaomi’s Mi being two examples that do exist.

“These issues are distinct from the Google comparison shopping case and the investigations will of course be different,” Ms Vestager said.

En réponse, Google a souligné que les appareils Android pourraient être offerts sans ses services.

“It’s important to remember that [our partner agreements] are voluntary – you can use Android without Google – but provide real benefits to Android users, developers and the broader ecosystem,” said lead engineer Hiroshi Lockheimer.

“Our app distribution agreements make sure that people get a great ‘out of the box’ experience with useful apps right there on the home screen. This also helps manufacturers of Android devices compete with Apple, Microsoft and other mobile ecosystems that come preloaded with similar baseline apps.”

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