December 16, 2013
The European Commission’s investigation of Google is a game of high stakes for European consumers and the European Internet economy – consumers have grown accustomed to getting real choice in search results, and many thousands of businesses depend on Google for traffic. We hope Google will not drop the curtains on the fantastic period of innovation and growth that it has led.
On December 12th, a large coalition of businesses in the Internet space (including the Allegro Group) held a media event in Brussels to share their views about the ongoing Google antitrust case before the European Commission. Google is accused of abusing its dominant position in general online search to conquer related but separate markets, such as hotel search, flight search, product search, mapping, and many more.
This is going to be a landmark case because it is the first big one that deals with competition on the Internet.
The stakes are very high for consumers. Will they get the most relevant results, or just the ones that Google makes money from?
Google search results page for “hotels glasgow” – none of the links are “natural” search results; all are paid for.
The Commission has just finished a wide consultation with interested parties about a second set of proposals from Google, after a first set was rejected by competitors in the Spring as “worse than doing nothing”. The message from us this time around is much the same, because the fundamental concept that Google is working with doesn’t commit Google to any principle of non-discrimination. Instead, it would focus on small details of the design of the search results page – even though no one wants to tell Google how to design its pages.
EU Competition Commissioner Almunia will announce his conclusions in the coming weeks. It is said that Christmas is a season of good will towards men – let us hope that as he considers his next move over the holidays, the Commissioner’s good will is towards European consumers and Internet businesses! Europe has never needed a thriving Internet sector more than it does today.Chris Sherwood