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Europe Readys Anti Trust Charges against Google

     
12:29 am on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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[recode.net...]

The E.U. is reportedly plotting a fine as large as $6.4 billion, roughly a tenth of Google’s annual revenue.



[wsj.com...]


Europe’s antitrust regulator plans to file formal charges against Google Inc. for violating antitrust laws, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday, stepping up a five-year investigation likely to become the biggest competition battle here since the European Union’s pursuit of Microsoft Corp. a decade ago.


[huffingtonpost.com...]

The European Union will accuse Google on Wednesday of abusing its dominant position in Internet searches, opening the U.S. tech company up to a risk of massive fines and enforced changes in its business model, the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal said on Tuesday.

....accuse Google of breaching competition law by diverting traffic from rivals to favor its own services, said the FT, adding that some fellow commissioners had been concerned Vestager was narrowing the probe.
12:40 am on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The Financial Times has a story that may raise an eyebrow or two (and that may encourage spammers to cheer on French officials who want Google to publish its "secret sauce"):

[ft.com...]
4:27 am on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Popcorn time? This will either end quickly or drag out over a few years. Quicker will be better for Google. This is quite a different situation to Microsoft's evil empire days.

Regards...jmcc
11:17 am on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The EU has now issued a statement of objection to Google. Not only is this investigation over anti-competitive practices for search, but it's also a formal investigation into "mobile operating systems, apps, and services. In other words, Android, and Google's practices.

It was coming, we knew, but now the process starts. If history is anything to go by, this process will be long and drawn out.

In the meantime, competitors ought to be looking to capitalise on the additional exposure this action will bring.

The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to Google alleging the company has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages. The Commission's preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers. Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

The Commission has also formally opened a separate antitrust investigation into Google's conduct as regards the mobile operating system Android. The investigation will focus on whether Google has entered into anti-competitive agreements or abused a possible dominant position in the field of operating systems, applications and services for smart mobile devices. Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping service; opens separate formal investigation on Android [europa.eu]
EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: "The Commission's objective is to apply EU antitrust rules to ensure that companies operating in Europe, wherever they may be based, do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation".

"In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary. However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe."

"I have also launched a formal antitrust investigation of Google’s conduct concerning mobile operating systems, apps and services. Smartphones, tablets and similar devices play an increasing role in many people's daily lives and I want to make sure the markets in this area can flourish without anticompetitive constraints imposed by any company."
11:52 am on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Google has been getting more blatant in placing it's own properties ahead of everyone. This was always going to catch up with them.
1:16 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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In my opinion, Google opened itself up to anti-trust lawsuits when they included Google Shopping in their results and then manipulated the results in order to keep Google Shopping advertisers happy.

Here is what I think is going on...

Google Shopping advertisers don't have control over the keywords that result in ad displays. They can input negative keywords to prevent ads from showing, but they can't target key phrases. This is basically a license to "mint" money for Google. To keep Google Shopping advertisers from fleeing the platform, Google must provide a decent number of conversions to the merchants listing in the service to cover up for the early stage impressions that Google is also serving up in order to maximize revenue. Over the years, we have all given Google too much data. Google Analytics, Conversion Tracking, and, unfortunately, data that tracks user action across the web from Adsense and Double Click. Google has gotten quite good at anticipating when a conversion is going to happen based on user behavior and the search terms used... And that's the problem... They need to provide conversions to Google Shopping to keep the platform afloat and they know a lot about when a user is ready to buy.

In my opinion, and it is only my opinion, Google is using their knowledge of user behavior to dole out promising user searches to various parties. I think Google Shopping gets the largest piece of the pie, as you can see with how BIG the shopping widget gets when search terms or user actions indicate they are nearing the end of the purchasing funnel. I personally feel that Google crossed the threshold of harming the consumer around late October of 2014. This is when I saw a major shift in how traffic is allocated to all of us, most likely due to the behavior of the shopping widget, as it became more aggressive in grabbing the valuable traffic.
2:07 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It's a simple as this for me. If you are running a daycare and your kids are part of that daycare group, how the hell could you not favor or bias towards your own kid? You wouldn't be watching them more closely? You wouldn't be more protective of them than the other kids? Of course you would. Google is no different. How on earth could they keep their own interests separate for the betterment of society, especially when they have an obligation (by law) to ensure maximum profits? It's crazy to think otherwise. This has been getting far too messy and as they say, this was INEVITABLE.
2:59 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Google owns many properties and invests in hundreds more. As was previously said, Google is going to favor their own properties. Some webmasters do the same by interlinking their properties and not linking to others. I don't think there is any point in discussing if Google favors their own properties because there is enough blatant evidence to show that they do. The question is should Google's other properties and companies they invest in be obligated to compete for the same eyeballs in the same manner that outsiders have to. And if they should, does this mean Google should be broken up? Because I honestly don't see any other remedies.

I don't think I've seen such market dominance by any one company in history. Google can influence most industries and most economies at the flip of a switch. This is too much power to give to one company and Google's preference for big national and multi-national brands has already harmed many small businesses. The EU complaint really does not address this issue specifically. The leaked American FTC complaint, where staff recommended pursuing a lawsuit, did address some of these issues. Unfortunately FTC Commissioners squashed it under political pressure. Let's see if Google can apply the same political pressure in the EU and make this one go away too.
3:11 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I don't think there is any point in discussing if Google favors their own properties because there is enough blatant evidence to show that they do.


Of course they favor their own properties in the user interface--just like everyone else (including the EU's own Web site) does. But do they favor their own properties in organic search results? That's the more legitimate question.
3:33 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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But do they favor their own properties in organic search results? That's the more legitimate question.

There's no question there either. I've seen many people complain about the number of youtube videos all in a row. And its been discussed here how many of the companies Google invests in are ranked in the top three organic positions. I've witnessed this type of favoritism in organics too, thanks to some of the good discussions about it on this and other forums (blogs too).
4:33 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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But do they favor their own properties in organic search results?


I find that almost a moot point, as they are clearly moving the whole group of organics down the page, reducing from 10 results to 9, or 8, or less, etc. They are also shifting sidebar ads farther down the page than ever before, alongside lower SERP results.

Getting back to "do they favor their own sites in organic results" though. Even if they aren't outright skewing the results, it seems reasonable to assume that some tips and hints around ranking well might get passed along to the Google employees running those sites. The kind of tips and hints that don't exist outside of Google's walls.
4:41 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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A virtual monopoly carries with it certain responsibilities and G is not honouring those responsibilities. G shopping has absolute and total access to that top line of the SERPS for many search terms.

In the end it was bound to attract unwanted attention and now it has.
7:10 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It seems that google allready took action. Google shopping ads are now on the bottom of first page on my ipad.

LOcation germany
7:15 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@Martin_Ice_Web
It seems that google allready took action. Google shopping ads are now on the bottom of first page on my ipad.

LOcation germany


Interesting. Does it stay at the bottom if you add more terms that make you seem like you're ready to buy? ( like "cheap widget" or "widget for sale" versus just "widget")

I've never seen shopping ads on the bottom of the page in the US.
7:44 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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i think they should just force them to use the tabs at the top.
google shopping should only appear in the "shopping" tab... youtube and other videos in the "video" tab... etc. i don't even care if they stuff those tabs with their own stuff... as long as they leave the "web" tab with the plain SERPs

and make them distinguish the adverts better as well, because what they made them do last time was a total joke (with that little yellow "ad" box). they should bring back proper background colors and different text colours for the adverts
7:50 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Rish, i can't find a real pattern but it seems for very very competitive terms google shopping is still at top. For other terms there is no plas or at bottom. When i refine my search sometimes PLAs move to top but not obligatory when i add buy, cheap a.s.o.
But when i come across the same search term after other search terms then PLAs are at top.

Looks like fuzzy logic. PLAs are not always displayed for less competitive keywords but still for very competitive. So google can say, look we don't prefer your own services, only if we see that users didn't find the right thing after first or second try we display our services. still to think that google has allways the ability to show very less relevant results for first and second search though.
7:56 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times has an interesting take on the case:

[nytimes.com...]
8:38 pm on Apr 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times has an interesting take on the case:

At the end of the day, this is about Google abusing is dominant position.

As powerful as Microsoft looked at the time, officials missed ways in which it was vulnerable. For starters, they didn’t anticipate the rise of mobile devices. The 1999 ruling against Microsoft found there were “no products, nor are there likely to be any in the near future” that people around the world could use as “substitutes” for Windows computers. In fact, within a few years, unexpected rivals began making such substitutes. In 2007, Apple released the iPhone, and soon after, Google released the Android operating system, which Samsung, HTC, Motorola and other manufacturers used to take the smartphone global and mainstream.


This writer seems unaware of just how constrained Microsoft was during the case.
[wsj.com ]
This probably had an effect in allowing companies like Google to be where they are today. Remember that just like Microsoft, Google will have to change how it does business and if Amazon does become dominant in the process. It will also face antitrust lawsuits if it abuses its dominant position. At the end of the day, this is all just arguing for the sake of arguing. The real question will be, did Google abuse it's dominant position to promote its own services?. In my opinion they did!.
12:14 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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i think they should just force them to use the tabs at the top.

I absolutely agree. Shopping, images, and videos should remain within their respective tabs. It's a search engine, not an affiliate store.
This is definitely abuse of their power and position. What happened to "good user experience"?
1:57 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Right, they should be forced to run other people's ads instead of their own. Users are being cheated because they aren't seeing Foundem ads instead of Google ads at the top of commercial SERPs.
2:22 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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If you force someone not to be "GREEDY" will they learn from this lesson?`Of course not.
You just can't force anything. It will come from the heart or not. Greed is why they will fall.
3:10 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Google search has become an ad platform, with some searches producing 100% ads above the fold. If Google wants to be in the business of selling ad space, then let them pay royalties for the content they scrape. We all know they use scraped content as filler material to boost their ads anyway.

Google is not a search engine anymore. They should not be treated as one and should compensate those whos material they use.
3:30 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Right, they should be forced to run other people's ads instead of their own. Users are being cheated because they aren't seeing Foundem ads instead of Google ads at the top of commercial SERPs.


Ya be careful how you define your wish. We want 6.4 billion bucks! That's a lot of deer crap on your front steps.
8:55 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Google is not a search engine anymore. They should not be treated as one and should compensate those whos material they use.


They should compensate for using our bandwidth and violating our copyrights when showing/hotlinking full size versions of our photos in Google Image Search. When will Europe do something about this?
9:31 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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They should compensate for using our bandwidth and violating our copyrights when showing/hotlinking full size versions of our photos in Google Image Search. When will Europe do something about this?


This is something that I do think should be addressed. Obviously it not just Google but some other SEs also.

To me, this is far worse than the scraping of data for Knowledge Graph (not in the EU complaint but a pet-hate), and is more easily established than the charges outlined in the European complaint.

Although this investigation by Europe may (will) have some consequences in how Google operates inside EU markets, in my view, it will be privacy issues which will change the public perception of Google.
9:38 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Earlier in this thread there's a link to the FT which is a subscription only. Others have picked up on the story now, and you may like to see what they say.

France is considering a law that would force Google to reveal its most closely guarded secret — its search algorithm.
France is trying to force Google to publish its secret search algorithm [uk.businessinsider.com]
The Financial Times reports that a proposal currently making its way through the French senate could force Google to publish the details of how its search rankings are calculated.

Google, understandably, is not happy.

And, just to be clear, there is almost zero chance that Google will go along with this.



As it says, in the article, there is very little hope of them publishing this information. I don't blame Google, it's their own development, why would anyone even consider this reasonable!
In any case, what purpose would it serve by forcing publication!

I wonder if it would work the other way around and Google pulls out of the market. Can you imagine what might happen. It'd certainly be interesting.
Every android phone with "service inaccessible" on the apps. No Google maps, no gmail, no Google search, no adwords, amongst many others. It'd be very interesting.
9:53 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The whole case being discussed by the French is ludicrous, that is like asking Coca-Cola for their recipe (as people enjoy drinking it).

Absolute nonsense.
9:55 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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They should compensate for using our bandwidth and violating our copyrights when showing/hotlinking full size versions of our photos in Google Image Search. When will Europe do something about this?


Not sure how they would gain access to full size images if you never allowed it.
10:09 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Not sure how they would gain access to full size images if you never allowed it.

Does not matter if you allow it or not when Google does not respect copyright holders in the first place. Image/content gets scraped, is placed on another domain and there it is in Google images. Or better yet, Google is permitted to index the original images and they are scraped/posted by others and the stolen images rank higher.

Google has no respect for webmasters and their original content. In Google's eyes it is their for the taking.
10:18 am on Apr 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The whole case being discussed by the French is ludicrous, that is like asking Coca-Cola for their recipe (as people enjoy drinking it).


I completely agree, and that's a very good example.
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