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Foundem Urges Brussels To Reject Google Search Concessions

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Google’s concessions to the European Union are not concessions at all, says British firm

An angry member of the anti-Google crew has ripped into the tech titan’s concessions offered to the European Commission during its investigation into alleged anti-competitiveness in the search market.

Google agreed to make a number of amendments to its search practices late last month, which the European Commission opened up for comments from interested parties. Initial reaction was far from positive, as Microsoft-backed Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (Icomp) said it was not happy about certain aspects of Google’s offer.

Today, Foundem, a British search firm that has been one of the biggest voices in the three-year long tussle, said it thinks Google hasn’t offered concessions at all, but is really subtly attempting to further tighten its grip on the search market.

Foundem furious

Foundem’s biggest complaint is that the various offers from Google do nothing to alter its natural search, but instead focuses on ‘Universal Search’, which features specialised services and appears above the standard results when a query is made (see below for how the two differ).

Foundem - search diffs

“The proposals ignore the natural search results and AdWords listings that Google is being charged with manipulating,” a document released by Foundem read today.

“Instead, Google’s proposals focus exclusively on minor alterations to its self-serving Universal Search inserts. This fundamental flaw means that Google’s proposals cannot alleviate either aspect of the Commission’s concerns regarding search manipulation.

“If the Commission were to adopt anything like these proposals, it would kill any hope of re-establishing thelevel playing field on which competition, innovation, and consumer choice depends.”

Foundem isn’t happy with the changes to Universal Search either, calling them “window dressing”, in some cases making the anti-competitive aspects of it“significantly worse”.

Google proposes to add labels to its Universal Search inserts, signposting links to its own services. This kind of labelling, however, has already been shown to have negligible impact on traffic diversion.

“Google also proposes to augment its Universal Search inserts with links to rival services under certain circumstances. For verticals that Google doesn’t monetise, no Rival Links would be inserted; for verticals that Google monetises with Pay-Per-Click or Display advertising, three Rival Links would be inserted; and for verticals that Google monetises with Paid Placement, three Rival Links would be inserted, but these would have to be paid for by the chosen rivals,” the company wrote.

“The anti-competitive impact of these three forms of Universal Search inserts would be, respectively, the same as before, the same or worse than before, and catastrophically worse than before.”

Foundem also suggested Google could just fix Rival Links so they don’t get much traffic at all. Paid Rival Links also represent “a potentially catastrophic escalation of Google’s abuse, providing a new and immensely powerful anti-competitive tool, which in many cases would hand Google the majority of its rivals’ profits”, Foundem added.

At the time of publication, Google had not responded to a request for comment on the Foundem arguments.

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