Google CEO Sundar PichaiSource: Android Central

What you need to know

  • European travel startups are unhappy with Google's incursion into the travel industry.
  • The company has been accused of using data from those startups to build up its own travel feature-set, creating an unassailable advantage when combined with its reach on the continent.
  • Some are considering filing a travel complaint with the European Commission.

Google is suffering from a deluge of antitrust complaints in countries ranging from the U.S., India, and even the European Union as a whole. Now, some members of the European travel industry want to add to that caseload with complaints that Google is pushing startups out of business.

In a very dense, in-depth piece, TechCrunch reported:

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.

[...]

The group is considering filing a cartel complaint against Google, per its report. 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's search market share in the EU and its general position as the first port of call for anyone looking for anything on the internet opens it to such a challenge. Just this week, Google announced new search tools that would let a user more easily pick travel destinations in our post-COVID world. It's really helpful for an average user like myself, but it eliminates any need to leave Google Search when traveling or planning a trip.

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Increasingly, startups are essentially arguing that Google is no longer just showing you where to find answers to travel queries, but solving your problems themselves with little or no benefit to the data sources. For something like Wikipedia, it may be trivial. You still need to go into the site for in-depth information. For travel companies, it could be devastating if a user can essentially finish all their business on Google from picking a destination, to creating an itinerary, to booking a flight, and then a hotel.

Travel company GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck told TechCrunch:

They want to create experience products now directly on Google search itself, with the aim that ultimately people can book these type of things on Google. [...] They want to limit consumer choice. And they want to monopolise the space. We don't want that and we will fight that. And if that means we need to go to the EU Commission to protect our and the customers' interests then we'll do that and we're currently reviewing that option.

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