UK-Based Streetmap Sues Google In Potential First Wave Of New EU Lawsuits
Nearly a decade after the launch of Google Maps, Google is being sued by a mapping competitor in the UK. The company is called Streetmap, and according to The Guardian, it’s using the familiar “abuse of competition” antitrust argument in a civil action against Google. I have not read the complaint. However, the article says […]
Nearly a decade after the launch of Google Maps, Google is being sued by a mapping competitor in the UK. The company is called Streetmap, and according to The Guardian, it’s using the familiar “abuse of competition” antitrust argument in a civil action against Google.
I have not read the complaint. However, the article says Streetmap claims the placement of Google Maps at the top of search results caused a “dramatic loss of traffic” to Steetmap’s website. The company also argues Google Maps’ integration into Android has damaged the company.
An attorney representing Streetmap is quoted in the article saying, “Documents show the new-style Maps OneBox allowed Google to take advantage of its dominant position in online search to drive traffic to Google Maps in the online mapping market.” (It’s not entirely clear from the article when the case was filed, but the SERP presentation complained of has been there for years.)
Putting aside the central antitrust claim, Streetmap is simply not a competitive product. That’s the bottom line. Even if Google had not been permitted to use a “Maps Onebox,” Streetmap would have seen its traffic decline because others offer a better user experience. It’s a weak product.
Streetmap’s User Interface
Google has been sued by a few other private companies over the past several years, with antitrust-style arguments that the company abused its market position. Several of the companies at the center of those suits have also been involved in the public antitrust investigation against Google (e.g., Foundem). Now, anticipating an anti-Google outcome in the European Commission’s (EC) case, attorneys and civil litigants throughout Europe are preparing to sue Google.
Google is aggressively contesting the EC’s arguments and claims and may be compelled to appeal fines and other remedies the EC is expected to impose. If there is an unfavorable EC outcome for the company, as expected, many private litigants will use that to support private damages cases against Google.
The Streetmap example is merely one instance of what might be a series of claims arguing Google unfairly damaged plaintiffs’ businesses through its “privileged” placement of Google “products” in search results. As with Streetmap, many of these claims will be clouded (or undermined) by products that are weak or not competitive.
Beyond anti-Americanism, this is a central problem with much of the antitrust discussion in Europe. Many publishers blame Google for problems that are ultimately the result of the internet itself or changing consumer behavior that the aggrieved parties have been unable to address successfully.
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