British price comparison website Foundem, which has been one company leading the charge accusing Google of antitrust practices in the EU – with a little help from the Microsoft backed ICOMP – has urged the EC to reject Google’s appeasement proposals.
In a statement, Foundem said Google’s proposals were “ill suited” and that the EC would have no choice but to “reject the proposals”.
Unlike the US counterpart in the FTC, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has relentlessly prodded Google about the antitrust allegations. Google is accused of, among other things, favouring its own services with higher rankings over emerging and established competition.
A response from Foundem to the EU making the proposed settlement public, Bloomberg reports, said: “Google is keen to portray the commission’s acceptance of its proposals as a fait accompli”.
“If the commission were to adopt anything like these proposals, it would kill any hope of re-establishing the level playing field on which competition, innovation, and consumer choice depends,” the response read. “We will have to wait for the market test to play out, but, at the moment, we can see no reasonable alternative for the commission other than to reject the proposals”.
Google said it would offer websites the option to opt out from the use of their content in Google search, while at the same time making sure that these opt outs do not affect overall web rankings.
It also said specialised search websites would have the option to mark categories of information in a way that isn’t indexed or used by Google, and to give news publishers the option for them to control the way their content appears in Google News. It would scrap written or unwritten obligations that force websites to use adverts exclusively from Google and would stop imposing obligations that prevent advertisers from managing search advertising across competing platforms.
The market, the EC says, will make up its mind this month. If the proposals are accepted then Google will be duty bound to stick to them for five years, while publishing results in each EC nation. But if the proposals are rejected, Almunia will be able to force Google into biding to a strict code of conduct. If it is caught breaching these terms, it faces fines of up to 10 percent of the company’s revenues – worldwide.
The chief beneficiary of imposing strict rules on the web giant may not be the consumer or the markets, as argued – but in fact Microsoft, itself making inroads into the search market. Weakening Google’s grip, even just in Europe, would be a massive boon to Redmond.
Foundem co-founder Shivaun Raff said last month that the only “foolproof way to tackle abusive practices is to end them”.