Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt says the company does not understand how the European Commission believes it has broken anti-trust laws, and insist the search giant has done nothing wrong.
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Europe's competition commisioner Jaoquin Almunia wrote to Google this week to address concerns that the company is abusing its dominant market position. The Commission wants Google to respond to its concerns "in a matter of weeks"
But speaking at Google's Big Tent event in Watford today, Schmidt insisted that the company does not believe it has done anything wrong, and wants to talk to Almunia to understand the details of the accusation.
"I had a nice conversation with the commissioner on the phone last week. We received a letter on Monday. We've agreed to have further discussion because… the letter is all we've heard about, we have not seen the details," he said.
"His letter is very clear, he is encouraging us to have a conversation for a period of time, we have also said we disagree that we are in violation, but we are happy to talk to him. Until they are precise on the details of law, we cannot speculate on the outcome."
Responding to a question from event host, Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy, about whether Google's search algorithm favours Google products over those of competitors, Schmidt said, "First question; is that a crime?"
"As far as we can tell, the judgement we have used [in developing our products] is pro-competitive and positive for end users. If it's not, then we want to hear why; we want to hear the details. Our success is determined by being one click away [from a competitor]."
He added: "We're not aware of anything we've done wrong, but are happy to be educated to the contrary."
In his letter to Google, commissioner Almunia identified four areas of concern that he wants the firm to address:
- The manner in which Google displays its own vertical search services differently from other, competing products;
- How Google copies content from other websites - such as restaurant reviews - to include within its own services;
- The exclusivity Google has to sell advertising around search terms people use;
- Restrictions surrounding portability of advertising content which prevents "seamless transfer" to other non-Google platforms.
But Schmidt said this is still insufficient information for the company to respond.
"Google wants data – give us the data, the precise example and the precise problem. We don't know what that is," he said.