Google, and its parent company Alphabet, is under fire after more than 40 companies have accused it of favoring its own vacation rental service during Internet searches.
These 40 companies, located on both sides of the Atlantic, have petitioned the EU courts to take antitrust action against Alphabet. These companies include well known vacation rental entities, such as eDreams Odigeo, Expedia and Tripadvisor.
The accusing parties penned a letter to EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in which they suggested Google and Alphabet prominently display their own vacation rental listings at the top of its general search results, complete with visual bells and whistles in order to lure in consumers.
“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, according to Reuters. “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.”
The letter came as Google and Alphabet gear up for a legal battle against an array of further antitrust accusations levied by Commissioner Vestager, in which it is alleged that Google has been using its dominance to promote its price comparison shopping service, squeezing out smaller rivals.
Expedia Chairman Barry Diller also called out Google’s alleged antitrust practices during a recent call with investors.
“When they compete against their advertisers — and we are one of their largest advertisers — they’re using their tactics to squeeze these entities that are delivering real service. It’s, among many things, antisocial. I think it’s bad practice,” Diller told investors, according to a transcript. “When businesses get to this size, they absolutely have to have regulation — sensible regulation. I’m not talking about break-ups, I’m not talking about any crazy stuff. But I do believe that will happen.”
Google has denied any wrongdoing, suggesting they are simply trying a new search methodology, which they say could account for the differences in search results noted by Expedia and the others.
“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,” a spokeswoman said. “This is designed to demonstrate the range of results available.”
Google’s vacation rentals service works as an aggregate, with the company receiving compensation when users click to book with companies such as Vacasa, Hotels.com or Agoda, none of whom are involved in the complaint.