Responses to Google’s Revised Settlement Offer to the European Commission

December 12th, 2013 | Bookmark and Share | SUBSCRIBE

On 28 October 2013, the European Commission sent confidential requests to approximately 125 companies and organizations asking for feedback on Google’s revised proposal to end the Commission’s investigation of Google’s potentially illegal abuses of its dominant position in online search and search advertising.

The Commission rejected Google’s first proposal as insufficient after widespread criticism by complainants and consumer advocates.

The following are excerpts of responses to Google’s revised proposal that groups have released publicly, with links to the full text of their comments:

FairSearch Europe

12 December 2013

“The data proves that Google has no interest in restoring competition or in offering consumers the best search results. Google’s proposed remedy does not fundamentally change the fact that Google can present its search results in a way that distorts user choice. The proposal does not fix the problem the Commission identified back in 2012. It hurts consumers.”

- Thomas Vinje, spokesman for FairSearch Europe

Link to source

ICOMP – Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace

12 December 2013

“Acceptance of these proposals by the Commission will serve to further and irrevocably entrench Google’s dominance. What is more, these new proposals give Google the power to further monetise its abusive behaviour by forcing small and large competitors to pay Google for the right to feature in these ‘rival links’ listings. The most relevant search results will be replaced by preferential slots either reserved for Google itself, or sold to the highest bidder.”

- ICOMP Legal Counsel, David Wood

Link to source

Hotmaps.com

12 December 2013

“The search results page layouts proposed to the Commission safeguard Google’s own paid product listings and other Google services such as Google Maps, giving Google the lion’s share of all views and clicks, and the proposed rival links next to none. In particular, this manipulation of search leaves mapping competitors with little traffic, in no way restores competition and is detrimental to the online economy.”

- Michael Weber, Director of Hotmaps.com

Link to source

BEUC – The European Consumer Organisation

26 November 2013

“It seems the Commission can’t find what it is looking for with Google. Progress has been slow and piecemeal. This second round of proposals are actually not just inadequate to solve consumer detriment, but are in fact self-serving… Somewhat bizarrely they are trying to settle an antitrust investigation by suggesting a new revenue stream and continuing to marginalize concerns. We find this unacceptable. The Commission should not bend the knee just due to investigation fatigue and [because] their mandate ends in 2014.”

-Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC

Link to source

Consumer Watchdog

26 November 2013 

“Consumer Watchdog, a U.S.-based public interest group, filed comments late Monday night opposing a proposed settlement to the European Commission’s antitrust investigation of Google because the proposed deal ‘will not restore a competitive search marketplace that will serve the interests of consumers…. The problem is that the suggestions the settlement is built upon simply do not solve the underlying issue. Moreover, Google’s conduct has severely damaged competition, leaving consumers with less choice and facing higher prices.”

-Consumer Watchdog comments to the European Commission opposing Google’s revised commitments proposal

Link to source

Foundem

21 November 2013

“Google’s revised proposals remain fundamentally unchanged and suffer from all of the same fatal flaws that rendered its previous proposals considerably more harmful than helpful. Once again, Google has presented a cynical attempt to entrench, extend, and escalate its abusive practices under the guise of remedies… We disagree with any suggestion that Google’s revised proposals are an improvement over Google’s previous proposals, let alone a ‘substantial improvement’… We urge the Commission to reject Google’s revised proposals, issue its Statement of Objections, and insist on remedies that will end, rather than escalate, the abusive practices it has identified.

-Adam Raff and Shivaun Raff, Foundem

Link to source

CEPIC – Centre of the Picture Industry

13 November 2013

“Google’s revised commitment proposals of 21st October 2013 in the Commission’s pending competition investigation do not address image providers’ concerns… CEPIC and the supporting trade associations want to make the Commission aware of the fact that despite the pending competition investigation, Google has actually expanded the scope of its unauthorized use of third-party content. They urge the European Commission to clarify that the ruthless exploitation of third-party content, especially of original images, is not a legitimate business model for dominant companies in Europe. As a minimum requirement they expect the implementation of a machine-readable rights expression language that allows image providers to express in which way and to which extent their works may be used by Google.”

-CEPIC

Link to source

European Press Publishers – informal coalition of 24 European publisher associations

13 November 2013

“Google’s revised remedy package of 21 October does not exclude any of the fundamental flaws of the initial package and even adds new proposals that further reduce competition… The ‘commitments’ would legitimise Google’s current practice of placing own services first and even turn the traffic to competing services into a new and lucrative revenue stream for Google. Rivals would be forced to pay ever increasing auction prices to their strongest rival, a cost which ultimately the consumers will have to bear…

“On behalf of hundreds of press publishers the undersigning European Associations call upon the Commission to accept the fact that Google is not prepared to offer workable commitments and to quickly return to the traditional route of a prohibition decision by issuing a Statement of Objections that addresses all competition concerns.”

-Joint comments of 24 European news organizations

Link to source

AEDE – Spanish Association of Daily Newspapers:

13 November 2013

“Publishers’ key concerns remain un-addressed after two years of a commitment procedure in which Google has shown no willingness to change its anti-competitive behaviour and has even expanded its unauthorised use of third-party content. We are now urging Vice-President Almunia to take the steps necessary towards an effective prohibition decision.”

-Luis Enríquez, Consejero Delegado of VOCENT

Link to source

VDZ (German Magazine Publishers’ Association)

13 November 2013

“Should the European Commission approve of Google’s proposals, this would result in a carte blanche to misuse a digital monopoly. Instead of ensuring ‘fair search’ the Commission would be allowing Google to arrange search results according to their own interests. It would be preposterous if the Commission legalised such misuse of a monopoly. We therefore call on the Commission once more to also apply European competition law to US internet monopolies, and to rigorously continue the proceedings.”

-Prof. Dr. Hubert Burda, President of VDZ (German Magazine Publishers’ Association)

Link to source 

BDZV (Federation of German Newspaper Publishers)

13 November 2013

“Google persists in giving preferential treatment to its own services and in displaying every alternative service as inferior, even if they are in fact more relevant to consumers. It also shows no willingness to present acceptable solutions regarding the unauthorised use of publishers’ content, although this is crucial for Europe’s creative content industries. Since Google’s latest commitment proposals do not contain any significant improvement, the Commission is left with no other choice than to reject a settlement and to turn to the traditional route of a prohibition decision.”

-Helmut Heinen, president of BDZV

Link to source

Consumer Watchdog

6 November 2013

“Google’s latest proposal to settle a European antitrust investigation does nothing to solve the underlying problem of how the Internet giant manipulates results and favors its own services in search… The proposal just gives Google another way to make money… Google needs to use an objective, non-discriminatory mechanism to rank and display all search results, including any links to Google products.”

-John Simpson, Director of Privacy Project, Consumer Watchdog

Link to source