Compare and Contrast – Google to be forced to change search results in Europe

by Peter Young on January 10, 2013 · 0 comments

Following on from the “interesting” conclusions of the FTC report into Google’s alleged abuse of their power, today came a completely contrasting perspective from the EU’s Competition Chief Joaquin Almunia. For those unaware of the FTC case last week – the FTC concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to support complaints made that Google were favouring their own products within the Google search results. Further more Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC went on to say

“Today’s action delivers more relief for American consumers faster than any other option available to the Commission and protects competition and consumers in a number of crucial markets central to the daily lives of hundreds of millions of American consumers and businesses. It ensures Americans continued access to smartphones, tablet computers and computer gaming systems, as well as a fairer playing field in Internet search and search advertising.”

He also concluded that:

Google is unquestionably one of America’s great companies, innovative in fields from its core search engine to such varied ventures as driverless cars and augmented reality eyewear. With today’s action by the FTC, Google can refocus on its business and its products, but with a clearer understanding that it too must do so while competing fairly.”

There is therefore a huge amount of irony to the feedback from the EU who today concluded that indeed Google were abusing their position as the dominant player in the search marketplace – and indeed were favouring their own real estate in favour of others

Almunia concluded that

“We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google is] diverting traffic. They are monetising this kind of business, the strong position they have in the general search market…This is not only a dominant position, I think – I fear – there is an abuse of this dominant position.”

The wording is particularly hard hitting here – quite in contrast from the earlier feedback from the FTC – and probably more in line with what many in the industry believe. Google will therefore be required to change the way it presents some of its results – particularly where they have a vested interest such as their own results or risk Antitrust charge. This may result in Google having to label their own services more prominently within the search results when given artificially higher standing than rivals.

Part of the disconnect between the FTC and EU findings would appear to be down to couple of simple factors. Firstly the difference in legal standards between the EU and the US – however secondly and perhaps more tellingly Google dominates the search landscape in Europe with over 90% market share at last count, whereas this figure in the US sits between 65-70%. As such cut through in the EU and any “abuse” of power is likely to have a far more widespread effect than it may have in the US. I personally stil though have to say I was hugely surprised with the FTC feedback when it came out particularly given the precedent from other similar cases in the past such as Microsoft.

Where we directly go from here is still unclear – however this should definitely give Google some food for thought. I personally have long since been of the opinion that more competition for Google can only be good for the search marketplace, this has only served to strengthen that thought.

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