Google warned over search parameters

The boss of a UK search engine company has warned Google that it could be sued into a coma if it does not alter its search result tactics

Shivaun Raff, co-founder and chief executive of Foundem, has warned that the search engine company faces “a tsunami of follow-on litigation” if it does not alter its search results in a negotiated settlement.

Raff told the Guardian  that Google’s need to avoid huge lawsuits from companies affected by its previous dominance means that the case he is taking to the EC puts it in a strong position.

She said that anyone who thinks that Google will get away with superficial remedies is almost certainly mistaken.

The EC has been investing Google since 2010 and while many think that the search engine will cave into Europe’s demands it could get messy.

The EC is expected to announce more details about the progress of discussions with Google.

But Raff said that if Google cannot come to a “settlement agreement” with the EC it will be forced through the courts.

This would lead to an “infringement decision”, which would mean that all the other rivals could sue Google for a lot of dosh.

If Google settles, it could avoid any admission of guilt and such lawsuits, she said.

Foundem has been at odds with Google since November 2009 when it complained that Google has favoured its own products while pushing rivals’ down its search engine pages.

Raff thinks that Google could modify its results to use “clear and conspicuous labelling” for its own products.

The EC could force the “scraping” of answers from sites which then appear in search results which removes the the need to click on a link and give the site traffic.

This would force services such as price comparisons, flight search links and mortgage comparisons to be treated as separate services, rather than “answers”, as Google presently does.

But she said that a key element used by Google to knock out spam sites from its index also hits “vertical” search companies such as her own. That must be prevented.

Already it is clear that the EC appears thinks Google broke antitrust law by pushing its own products ahead of rivals and the remedies are likely hurt Google.

But if it does not agree to them it is going to create real problems for the company as it is taken to the cleaners by its rivals.