Pressure is mounting on Google in Europe, with the news that a new platform has been established to help so-called “victims of Google.”
The Google Redress and Integrity Platform, or GRIP as it wants to be known, has been set up by a European public affairs consultancy firm called Avisa, and law firm Hausfeld. GRIP says its main goal is to “evaluate the potential damage claims arising from Google’s anticompetitive behaviour.”
In other words, this is a prelude to potential civil lawsuits brought by European companies seeking redress from Google over long-standing anti-competition accusations.
The news comes as Google’s five-year antitrust case brought by European regulators nears its conclusion. Officials are expected to issue a ruling later this year, or by early 2016.
At the heart of the antitrust case is Google’s search engine dominance in the European Union, where it claims around 90 percent of the market. It has been argued that the Internet giant favors its own myriad services over those of its rivals’, in the areas of flights, restaurants, and other ecommerce offerings.
While Google has naturally refuted these claims, recently stating that improving quality isn’t anti-competitive, there is a rising tide of resentment against the company in Europe. Accordingly, Google doubled its lobbying spending in Europe last year.
It’s important to note here that GRIP isn’t another lobbying group — it’s pitching itself as the go-to body for companies seeking a slice of Google’s cash, should regulators rule against the U.S. firm. GRIP, too, will of course be looking to cash in on the initiative.
“So far, the focus has been on public enforcement,” explained Laurent Geelhand, managing partner at Hausfeld, in an interview with the New York Times. “But what’s still missing is how this has financially affected the victims.”
Avisa has been involved in the ongoing European Commission (E.C.) investigation since 2009, and has hitherto provided assistance to French Web search company 1plusV, which was one of the companies that sparked the initial E.C. investigation.
As for GRIP, following an initial appraisal by Avisa, any cases deemed to hold significant weight will be referred to Hausfeld for further assessment, before the next steps are determined.