Google has found an unlikely friend in its five-year antitrust battle with the European Commission in the form of eBay, whose chief executive has jumped to the search engine's defence.
John Donahoe said Google and eBay are direct competitors in the online commerce industry, going against claims by the EU that Google uses its hugely dominant position in the search market to unfairly direct traffic towards its other online services - such as shopping - and away from rivals like eBay.
The EU claims Google has created a monopoly for itself, preventing rivals from getting the traffic through Google search results they deserve. However, speaking to the Financial Times, Donahoe said: "Yes...We are a strong commerce competitor [of Google's]."
Google's defence against the EU's claims is that regulators have not understood how the search company is dwarfed in the online shopping market by the likes of eBay and Amazon. Despite commanding more than 90% of the European search market, Google's Shopping service had just 13 million unique visitors in Europe in February, compared with 100 million each for eBay and Amazon, according to data from ComScore.
Where the EU believe shoppers start their searching on Google, analysts disagree. Youssef Squali of Cantor Fitzgerald in New York told the FT: "Generally, Amazon remains the first place where people start their commercial queries, but they would often move to Google next if they can't find what they're looking for on Amazon."
The five-year investigation into Google's search practices has seen it produce four sets of proposed changes to the EU, in which it promises to adjust how search results are displayed to try and prevent bias towards its own products and away from rivals. The EU's then-competition chief, Joaquin Almunia, said in September 2014 that Google would have to improve on its fourth set of proposals.
Google's shopping service works in a fundamentally different way to Amazon and eBay. Where the latter offer a complete service for searching and buying products, Google Shopping is a search engine which helps shoppers find what they want, then redirects them to external e-commerce websites in return for a fee paid by the sites to Google.