- Streetmap sues Google for unfairly promoting its own service
- Case comes amid EU threats of antitrust fines for Google
Google, which is already battling European Union antitrust regulators, was accused in a London court of abusing its Internet-search power to crush a tiny British rival seeking to carve out a niche in the online mapping market.
The world’s biggest search engine company "used its dominant position in online search to give itself favorable treatment over everyone else," Mark Hoskins, a lawyer for Streetmap EU Ltd., said Wednesday. "We say that’s not normal competition because normal competition would be for Google to compete on the quality of the maps."
Google gave preferential treatment to its own service via an image display at the top of search results introduced in 2007, Streetmap said in court documents. This gave Google an unfair advantage over other mapping providers and resulted in a "dramatic loss of traffic," Streetmap said. Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., is contesting the claims.
The British case is one of the first to find its way to London courts in the midst of Google’s five-year-long antitrust battle with the European Commission. The Brussels-based regulator, which encourages private lawsuits in antitrust cases, has threatened fines large enough to act as a deterrent after accusing the U.S. search-engine giant of squeezing out rivals in the comparison-shopping market.
The explanation for Streetmap’s decline "may lie in consumers’ changing preferences in response to competition and innovation in the market," Google said in its response. Services like Streetmap "which focused mainly or entirely on the display of maps without adding value for users were already facing decline," and began to lose ground, "well before June 2007.”
Google is also fighting the EU’s antitrust complaint -- saying the commission made “peculiar and problematic” demands to change the way it displays search results.
"Our company was badly wronged by what Google did after 2007," Kate Sutton, a director at Streetmap, said in a statement before the trial. "Had it not been for what we say was Google’s anti-competitive behavior, our company and other companies would have been able to compete with Google which would have been for the benefit of consumers and businesses.”