This is not a surprise. This is what Google does, leveraging its monopoly position on search, and now online advertising, to crush competitors:
As the antitrust drumbeat continues to pound on tech giants, with Reuters reporting comments today from the U.S. Justice Department that it’s moving “full-tilt” on an investigation of platform giants including Google parent Alphabet, startups in Europe’s travel sector are dialing up their allegations of anti-competitive behavior against the search giant.This is why the internet giants need to be regulated as utilities, and why we should consign Robert Bork's corrupt and ahistorical antitrust analysis needs to be put in the dust-bin of history.
Google has near complete grip on the search market in Europe, with a regional market share in excess of 90%, according to Statcounter. Unsurprisingly, industry sources say a majority of travel bookings start as a Google search — giving the tech giant huge leverage over the coronavirus-hit sector.
More than half a dozen travel startups in Germany are united in a shared complaint that Google is abusing its search dominance in a number of ways they argue are negatively impacting their businesses.
Complaints we’ve heard from multiple sources in online travel range from Google forcing its own data standards on ad partners to Google unfairly extracting partner data to power its own competing products on the cheap.
Startups are limited in how much detail they can provide on the record about Google’s processes because the company requires advertising partners to sign NDAs to access its ad products. But this week German newspaper Handelsblatt reported on antitrust complaints from a number of local startups — including experience booking platform GetYourGuide and vacation rental search engine HomeToGo — which are accusing the tech giant of stealing content and data.
The group is considering filing a cartel complaint against Google, per its report.
We’ve also heard from multiple sources in the European travel sector that Google has exhibited a pattern of trying to secure the rights to travel partners’ content and data through contracts and service agreements.
One source, who did not wish to be identified for fear of retaliation against their business, told us: “Each travel partner has certain specialities in their business model but overall the strategy of Google has been the same: Grab as much data from your partners and build competing products with that data.”
Google defends this type of expansion by saying it’s just making life easier for the user by putting sought for information even closer to their search query. But competitors contend the choices it’s making are far more insidious. Simply put, they’re better for Google’s bottom line — and will ultimately result in less choice and innovation for consumers — is the core argument. The key contention is Google is only able to do this because it wields vast monopoly power in search, which gives it unfair access to travel rivals’ content and data.
It’s certainly notable that Alphabet hasn’t felt the need to shell out to acquire any of the major travel booking platforms since its ITA acquisition. Instead, its market might allow it to repackage and monetize rival travel platforms’ data via an expanding array of its own vertical travel search products.