Google’s been in the hot seat in Europe, where it’s faced the European Commission in a three year anti-trust investigation. Now, the deal between Google and the EU is finalised with several significant changes – but Google’s competitors are still not happy.
The argument for the changes? Google is limiting customer choice by promoting its own services over equally relevant sites. According to the Financial Times, Google will in the future have to label its own results as promoted posts. The search engine will also have to list at least three competitors (such as Yelp or TripAdvisor) in some search results, in particular travel and restaurant listings. These are the searches in which Google has the most to gain financially by giving its own services prominent positions.
It’s gotten off more lightly with other vertical searches such as weather. Here, Google just has to label its results and list them separately from normal search results. Paid services, such as Google Shopping, will be labelled as advertising and also clearly separated from the rest of the search listing.
As for Google News, the service facing particular challenges in Germany, publishers can now choose for some or all of their content not to be included in the news aggregation.
This is the first time that Google has bowed to pressure from a regulator to change the way it lists its search results – in this case, the compromises mean the search giant will avoid the case going to court and potential hefty fines.
However, the Financial Times reports that Google’s competitors – the ones who initially pushed for the reforms – are not happy with the leniency of the settlement. They are keen to see harsher penalties, even suggesting a Google label could suggest a link is more official than others. FairSearch, the lobbying group made up of some of Google’s biggest rivals, will continue to campaign for harsher restrictions on Google.
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