Imagine the scene: it is a sunny autumn afternoon and you are walking down your favourite shopping street kicking leaves to one side. Try guessing whether your fellow shoppers are out for a stroll, are off to browse in the shops or are heading intently to buy an item they have already identified online or during a previous stroll. The chances are that the people you see fall into all of these categories.
People are complicated. Consumer behaviour is complicated. Technological change throws even more variables into the mix.
It is worth bearing all this in mind when thinking about the European Commission statement of objections against Google in its ‘shopping’ case. The Commission asserts that Google’s general search engine prioritises its own services in a way that is anti-competitive and is able to harm consumer welfare. The key questions to my mind are (i) what is the reality of consumer behaviour online in finding goods, services and prices; (ii) what is the reality of investment in the EU in ecommerce and related activities; and, given this, (iii) even if Google wanted to, could it exert such influence over the market?