Google faces a new front in its war with Europe over allegations of abusing its search dominance, with the price comparison website Kelkoo suing the internet giant in the High Court.
Kelkoo claims Google has crippled its business by illegally exploiting its monopoly over internet searches, and is seeking damages that could run to millions of pounds.
Well, it doesn’t have a monopoly but we might agree that it has market dominance, yes.
Richard Stables, its chief executive, said Kelkoo’s traffic from Google had dropped by around 95pc in the last few years.
“Google has completely destroyed most of the industry. They set about systematically destroying the likes of Kelkoo,” Mr Stables said. He did not comment on how much Kelkoo was seeking, but said industry-wide damages claims could run into the billions.
It’s an interesting little problem. Google achieved market dominance in search by being very good at it. As far as I’m aware at least there are no cases where Alta Vista or others are challenging what happened, it was plain old market competition and may the best Gal win.
It isn’t true that someone who is very good at something cannot expand their activities. And nor would we want that to be so either. And it seems a fairly natural extension that someone doing search should move to doing price search (this isn’t, from the looks of it, quite a comparison engine, that’s more about insurance policies, electricity etc). We certainly wouldn’t, in theory, want to stop someone good at search from expanding into that area.
But the EU seems to have different ideas.
And some forms of extensions of market dominance can indeed be pernicious. If the dominant car maker will not let dealers who sell rivals access spare parts for their own models then we might cock and eye at that. If the Tube tried to refuse tickets to those who cycled to work occasionally.
But the EU seems to side against the Americans more often than that. And it’s a tricky problem, what is the correct line to take?
No, I dunno either. Other than to be convinced the Commission is on the wrong side of it.