Streetmap Loses Anti-Competitive Lawsuit Against Google In UK
Streetmap had sued on grounds that putting Google Maps at the top of search results was an “abuse of competition."
UK-based Streetmap sued Google in court last November under an “abuse of competition” theory. This was essentially the civil-suit version of the European Commission’s antitrust case against the company. The High Court of Justice in the UK has now ruled against Streetmap.
Streetmap had argued that the insertion of Google Maps at the top of search results (i.e., OneBox) in 2008 had deprived the company of traffic and revenue, effectively destroying it. However, the court disagreed.
According to The Guardian, the court said that the Maps OneBox was “not reasonably likely appreciably to affect competition in the market for online maps.” Complicating the case is the fact that Streetmap offers a generally poor user experience that isn’t competitive with Google Maps.
Streetmap will apparently appeal the unfavorable decision. The Guardian quotes Streetmap spokesperson Kate Sutton on the ruling:
First, this decision is unfair for small businesses. The hands of small businesses are now tied behind our backs. The decision makes it effectively impossible for a small business to bring a competition law complaint until it is too late, because the information required will simply not be known to them.
Second, Google has got away with non-compliance with its legal obligations. It admitted in the trial that it did not do a UK test when it introduced Google Maps. It instead only looked at its effects on the US market. Google put forward no evidence that it had turned its corporate mind to compliance with UK law at the time. We think that it is wrong for any company with the duty of a dominant company to take such an approach to compliance with the law.
The European Commission’s antitrust investigation against Google is currently focused on the shopping vertical. However local/maps is one of the subsequent intended cases. It will be interesting to see whether this ruling has any impact on the European Commission’s case against Google.
While the European Commission has substantial discretion, and its decisions are often not subject to judicial review, it’s likely that Google, which has taken a defiant position in the matter, would have recourse to the courts following an unfavorable regulatory decision.