Google Formally Charged With Manipulating Search Unfairly

Posted on 4/16/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to Google alleging the company has abused its dominant position in the markets for general Internet search services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages. The Commission's preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers.

Almost 20 complainants against Google want the search engine to abide by strict rules that ensure its formula treats its own services no differently from rivals. CEPIC, on behalf of the photographic community, is one of the complainants.

The CEPIC complaint focuses on the antitrust behavior that Google Image Search gives to images. By copying the images of stock agencies and showing them as if they were theirs, Google promotes piracy and devalues the work and effort of hundreds of thousands of individual authors and right holders.

Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation, but it is the opening salvo in one of the defining antitrust cases of the Internet era.

EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy, Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager said: "The Commission's objective is to apply EU antitrust rules to ensure that companies operating in Europe, wherever they may be based, do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation". (See the full release)

Google will be given 10 weeks to respond to allegations and will have the opportunity to call a hearing to make its defense. Ultimately, the commission has the power to levy fines of up to 10 percent of Google’s global turnover and can impose far-reaching curbs on its business practices.

Vestager took over the role of the EU’s competition commissioner in Novermber. Her predecessor as antitrust chief, Joaquin Alumnia, had tried and failed repeatedly to reach a settlement with Google through more private negotiations. Many observers believed he was hesitant to file a formal “statement of objections. Clearly Vestager is willing to be more confrontational.

Shortly after the announcement Vestager flew to Washington where she will give two speeches on antitrust issues and meet with U.S. regulators before giving two more speeches in New York on Monday.

In a statement after the announcement Alfonso Gutierrez, CEPIC President, said, “If the Commission continues on this level, I am very optimistic that the concerns in regard to copying (images) others web content (known as 'scraping') that promotes piracy, will be fully analyzed and finally corrected. We at  CEPIC will continue feeding the European Commission with the relevant data. In principle the Commission's step-by-step approach on Google cases should be welcomed as it allows the Commission to make a methodical approach to do the job faster.”

In Europe Google has 90% of the search market compared with 67% in the United States.

Copyright © 2015 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Paul Melcher Posted Apr 16, 2015
    You don't clearly explain how Google being fined 10% of its global turnover will benefit the stock photo industry and photographers in particular. This statement has been made mostly regarding Google alleged practices in e-commerce search, not on its impact to photo agencies. Furthermore, has any studies been made to compare what is being lost vs gained thanks to Google search. A lot of SEO savvy companies ( Shutterstock being one) have reached massive growth thanks to Google. Will piracy stop if Google is no longer allowed to scrap images ? Will small stock agencies still be able to compete without a Google ? Will CEPIC members be able to thrive if Google search is impaired ?

  • David Madison Posted Apr 16, 2015
    formerly vs formally

    quite different meanings

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