Google's rivals to reject offer of label in listings in antitrust probe
Google's rivals (the rest of the universe) have dropped a huge hint that they won't be accepting Google's offer to label their services in search listings. This is the latest in an attempt to settle the tediously long-running antitrust investigation by the European Commission over the internet behemoth's market dominance.
Google's offer was published on Thursday by EC competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia, who not only has an exciting name, but has also given rival organisations a month to respond to the proposals.
Should they be accepted, Google will have to display results in a set format within the EC. However, this doesn't seem likely and, if that's the case, Almunia could be obliged to issue a formal "Statement of Objections" to Google's conduct, which will end up in more fines and Google being forced to follow a legally binding code of conduct. 'Don't be evil' indeed.
This is all to do with an investigation that has been running since 2010, when Foundem, Microsoft-owned Ciao, and the French legal search engine ejustice.fr filed a complaint. Further complaints have come from independent European consumer organisation BEUC (who count Which!!! as one of their members) and they're collectively disappointed with the proposals, saying that this won't come close to "eradicating the current anti-competitive behaviour in what is essentially a monopoly market".
Google are, ostensibly, being accused of rigging search results and promoting their own services such as YouTube, Maps, Shopping and Local. Proposals state that Google should be at least listing links to at least three other companies' sites. However, BEUC said the "labelling" proposal "may even shepherd consumes towards clicking on Google services [that would be] highlighted in a frame … Labelling an infringement of competition law doesn't prevent it being an infringement."
Shivaun Raff, co-founder of the UK vertical search company Foundem said: "The only foolproof way to tackle abusive practices is to end them. Ultimately, the only way to end Google's search manipulation practices and restore a level-playing field is to ensure that Google holds all services, including its own, to exactly the same standards, using exactly the same crawling, indexing, ranking, display, and penalty algorithms."