Google's Legal Problems Mount in Europe - The UpStream

Google's Legal Problems Mount in Europe

posted Sunday Jul 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Google's Legal Problems Mount in Europe

While Google might have legal troubles in the US, they are nothing compared to their troubles in the EU. One of the complaints against the company here is that they promote their own services and sponsors at the expense of actual, valid results. The same complaint has been filed against Google in the EU, but with significantly bigger implications.

Here, when you do a search for, say, computer monitors, you will probably see sponsored results at the top and right of the results page for TigerDirect or Best Buy or Amazon. Those results are semi-clearly labeled, sometimes with a slightly different background and always with a little word "Ad" or "Sponsored" somewhere near it. While not necessarily obvious, these things do differentiate the paid results.

In the EU, however, the same search terms may return the same or similar paid results, but the paid results are not differentiated from the proper, valid search results in any way. In fact, in this case, the non-paid results may not even show up until the third or fourth page. While this is good for Google and the advertisers, it is not exactly good for the people using the service.

The EU's antitrust investigation, opened in 2010, received a proposal from Google earlier in the year, and it seems the commission is not pleased with the results. In response to this proposal, the European Commission has issued Google a warning that they need to fix this proposal if they hope to get out of their antitrust case in the EU. Even American organizations are weighing in on the EU case. John Simpson from Consumer Watchdog wrote to the commission,

Since 2007, if not earlier, Google has favored its own services-particularly its specialized 'vertical search' services-over the services of competitors. Google has both promoted its own services in its search results and demoted and penalized the results of its competitors.

He also noted that the proposal excludes Google.com, which is, of course, the site that most commonly returns search results, including in Europe.

One of the unique aspects of an EU antitrust case is that the European Commission works closely with the competitors to ensure that everyone is content with the solution. If not, those competitors can sue the commission for damages, which is something that they would prefer not happen. Therefore, the process will have Microsoft, Yahoo and whoever else the commission deems a damaged competitor, actively involved until an adequate resolution can be found.

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