Google Rival Says Search Giant Feigned Ignorance Over EU Case

A U.K. price-comparison website that helped trigger a European Union antitrust complaint against Google Inc. accused the search-engine giant of deliberately feigning ignorance about what’s at stake in the case.

Foundem, one of the first companies to complain to the EU about Google, said the search engine’s blog response to an April 15 statement of objections misleadingly referred to “a ton of competition” from services such as Inc. and EBay Inc.

Google “is well aware” that the EU’s investigation “is not and has never been about shopping,” Foundem said. “It has always been about product price comparison” and “traffic figures for Amazon and EBay -- interesting though they are -- have no place on any graph purporting to represent the state of the product price-comparison market.”

The EU’s patience with Google ran out after three settlement bids failed to satisfy critics, who said the Mountain View, California-based company was wielding its power over search results to unfairly promote its own services and paid ads. Sending antitrust objections, which lay out where the EU thinks Google is breaking the law, pushes the investigation into new territory.

“No one is suggesting that Google be prevented from entering this or any other market,” said Foundem. “At the moment, Google’s gatekeeper status and the virtually imperceptible nature of search engine bias allows Google to commandeer the traffic and revenues of virtually any sector of its choosing.”

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Foundem’s criticism.

The EU has been probing allegations since 2010 that Google’s search page isn’t fair when people seek services online. Microsoft Corp., Expedia Inc., publishers and others have asked the EU to examine complaints that Google favors its own services over competitors and hinders specialized search engines that compete with it.

Foundem, based in Bracknell, England, argues that it lost web traffic as a result of being pushed down in Google’s search rankings.