Monckton team successfully defends Google against abuse of dominance claim

18 Feb 2016

High Court dismisses claim against Google, holding that, where a pro-competitive innovation by a dominant company is alleged to have harmed competition on a related market, the effect on competition in that market must be serious or appreciable in order to constitute an abuse of dominance.

In a judgment handed down today, the High Court dismissed a claim for abuse of dominance brought against Google by online map provider Streetmap.

Streetmap alleged that, by displaying a clickable image of a map, taken from Google Maps, at the top of its search engine results page in response to certain search queries, Google gave Google Maps an unfair advantage over other online map providers, and thereby abused its (assumed) dominant position in the market for online search.

In an important judgment on the application of competition law (The prohibition on abuse of dominance is contained in Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Chapter II of the Competition Act 1998) in rapidly developing online markets, Mr Justice Roth rejected Streetmap’s case, holding that:

  • since the introduction of a clickable map image on its search page was a pro-competitive measure on the market where Google was dominant, for its conduct to be abusive, it had to be reasonably likely to have a serious or appreciable effect on competition in the related market for online maps;
  • on all the evidence, the introduction of the clickable map image on Google’s search page had not taken custom away from Streetmap.  Therefore, it was not reasonably likely to gives rise to anti-competitive foreclosure;
  • in any event, Google’s conduct was objectively justified.  Since the alternative technical solutions proposed by Streetmap would have entailed significant practical problems, or imposed a substantial additional burden on Google, it had not been required to implement them by any obligation of proportionality.

Google was represented by Jon Turner QC, Josh Holmes and Ben Lask.

To view the full judgment, please click here.

A full case note will be issued shortly.