FairSearch Statement on Inadequacy of Google’s Proposed Commitments to the European Commission

July 17th, 2013 | Bookmark and Share | SUBSCRIBE

See below for a statement from Thomas Vinje, Spokesman for FairSearch Europe:

Google’s proposed commitments intended to resolve the search bias concerns are ineffective by design, and we have asked the Commission to reject them in their entirety. Google’s proposed commitments across the board retard rather than promote competition. As we’ve said often, they are worse than nothing. Similarly, Google failed to propose effective remedies for scraping content from competing sites, locking advertisers into exclusivity arrangements and limiting the portability of ad campaigns.

The Hyman / Franklyn study provides the hard, unbiased evidence for what seemed obvious: if Google gives itself prime placement and rich graphics on the search landing page — while relegating rivals to small links — then Google’s own products will prevail.

We also learned that if Google is required to compete fairly against its rivals, as European law requires, then the winner will be based on the merits.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

In our observations on the proposed commitments, we have also expressed concerns that they fail to address Google searches outside of the Google Search Box such as browser search boxes, address bars, and the Google toolbar.  In addition, the proposed commitment exclude searches made outside EEA domains.

Google would have an incentive to steer users to these other domains, and avoid the Google Search Box, because it is a way to avoid the commitments.

Requiring Google’s competitors to bid for inclusion in the Google Shopping site is effectively a way of raising rivals’ costs. Dominant companies are prohibited by European law from raising rivals’ costs.

Moreover, Google’s proposals give Google a myriad of other ways to avoid compliance because of ambiguous language and built-in exceptions.

These days, Google is crucial for many businesses because more and more retail is going on line. Nine out of 10 Europeans who surf use Google. Therefore, businesses have no alternative but to use it as a gateway no matter how they may feel about Google – that is the meaning of dominance.

AGAINST THEIR WILL

Regarding Google’s longstanding practice of siphoning off content without permission from competing businesses such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, these proposals require businesses to choose between having Google take their content for its own purposes, without paying, or disappearing entirely from Google. They must allow content to be used against their will. This is not a remedy, and it is not a choice, because businesses have to be on Google.

There are other concerns as well. For example, Google’s proposal gives it wide discretion to prevent advertisers from porting their advertising campaigns from Google to rivals.

In addition, Google reserves the right to circumvent its proposed commitments with respect to its exclusivity obligations.

We discuss these and other proposed Google commitments in our submission to the European Commission. We hope this information is helpful to the Commission as it examines Google’s proposals.