UPDATE: The European Commission is now seeking feedback from interested parties on Google's proposals within a month. A statement acknowledges the EC's concerns that the search giant may be abusing its dominant position. The statement lists the concerns as well as Google's proposals and says if a market test is successful it could make them legally binding.
Original story below:
Google's lengthy wrangling with European regulators could see some kind of closure if a market test of proposals from the search giant proves successful.
The European Commission has been investigating Google for a several years over complaints from a number of parties including Expedia and TripAdvisor, claiming its practices are anti-competitive.
Nothing formal has been released by the EC but the Financial Times recently released a comprehensive report (sign-up required) on what it believes to be the terms Google is proposing to appease regulators.
- Google will clearly label its in-house products and services in general search results
- Where Google is earning revenue from its in-house services, it must provide links to three competitor search engines
- Google will also comply with requests from sites to stop scraping their content to use within search results
- Proposals also cover mobile search results
Experts say a market test should begin in the next few weeks to see how all of this works in practice with a third party monitoring Google's compliance on these and other proposals which are part of the deal.
FairSearch, a coalition of interested parties including the businesses who have lodged complaints with the commission, has reacted to the media reports by saying the market test should be three months long.
The statement says:
The most important remedy to Google’s abuse of dominance is to require the search monopoly, which controls 94 percent of the market in Europe, to subject its own products and services to the same policy it uses to rank and display all other websites.
Since it has taken a year to extract a final proposal from Google, FairSearch believes the ‘market test’ should last three months to ensure that interested parties have enough time to carefully provide the European Commission with their expertise on the effectiveness of Google’s proposal. As we have said, we will comment on Google’s proposed remedies after the Commission shares them.
The statement also calls on Google to release any test results provided to the EU to demonstrate how it fixes any abuse of dominance as charged.
Digital marketing specialist Stickyeyes believes these proposals are likely to draw a line under the drawn out proceedings which will mean Google avoids having to pay a hefty fine.
Director of search Jonny Artis says:
"This has been going on for a number of years but was exacerbated by the Panda algorithm two years ago. The upshot of Panda was that any website that did not consist of large amounts of its own content suffered badly so, comparison-type websites in shopping/travel were downgraded in terms of search performance.
"Google's over-arching objective was to relieve its search results of sites perceived to be low quality, particularly those duplicating large amounts of copy from other sources or simply not providing substantial levels of unique copy themselves.
"But, Google's argument came under scrutiny when it showed its own products without the same level of algorithmic scrutiny."
He cites TripAdvisor as a good example whereby Google will now label its own services as well as show three competing products but says further changes in the search algorithm are unlikely with additions to the search pages the most likely outcome.
A year ago Expedia filed a complaint with the EC over unfair practices. TripAdvisor also filed its own complaint at that time.
In the US similar complaints to the Federal Trade Commission resulted in a truce with regulators who did not find Google to have taken an unfair advantage of its dominant position.
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