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Google Hearing Loss May Help Company Silence Rivals in EU Probe

Google Inc. has turned down the chance of a hearing with European Union antitrust watchdogs and rivals, denying its industry foes the chance to take another swipe at the search-engine giant.

Google hit back on Thursday in a written response to an EU antitrust complaint that accused the company of wielding its power for years to quell competition in the comparison-shopping market. But Google waived its right to demand a hearing to argue its case in Brussels.

“It’s highly unusual for a company embroiled in an antitrust probe to take a miss on an oral hearing when it gets a chance to call one,” said Thomas Vinje, a lawyer with Clifford Chance LLP who represents FairSearch Europe, whose members include Microsoft Corp., Expedia Inc. and Nokia Oyj. “But here, Google realizes it cannot win the argument in a debate it does not control.”

The European Commission’s patience with the company snapped in April after three settlement bids failed to satisfy critics. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager fired off a so-called statement of objections, or SO, threatening fines and enforced changes to the way search...