More than 30 competitors in the travel holiday rental industry are accusing Google of promoting its own services over theirs, and one of them has submitted an official complaint to the European Commission, according to a report by the Financial Times.
The timing of the accusation comes as Google is appealing a 2.4 billion euro ($2.6 billion) fine due to antitrust behavior in front of Europe’s second-highest court.
The complaint was in the form of a letter signed to 34 companies, which include Expedia, eDreams, TripAdvisor and HomeToGo, and was addressed to Margrethe Vestager, the European Union competition commissioner. The letter says Google hurt its competitors by putting its own holiday rental search box above their own.
“We see strong indications of a competitive strategy for Google to reduce us and our industry to mere content providers for the ‘one-stop-shop’ of Google’s new product,” the letter said. “[Google] features its new product in a visually-rich OneBox at the top of its general search results pages. Such favorable ranking and display secures Google’s service more user attention and clicks than any competing service may acquire, even if these are more relevant for the user’s search query.”
Google has its own searches for jobs, flights, hotels and shopping, and the companies said Google favors those results over others. So far, Google has been fined 8.2 billion euros ($8.9 billion) by the EU for such behavior.
The EU is also investigating Google over data collection practices and whether it makes it harder for competitors to enter the marketplace.
“People trust Google to give them relevant and trusted information from a diverse range of sources,” Google said. “That’s why our search results are designed to provide the most relevant information for your query, and the better the results we can provide, the more qualified leads we’re able to send to our partners. We’re currently testing a new format for specialist searches in Europe including jobs, local and travel where people might see a carousel of links to direct sites across the top of the search results. This is designed to demonstrate the range of results available.”