Europe Votes For Fairer Search Results

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European Parliament vote sends clear message to regulators to go tough on Google

Internet giant Google, already found guilty of abusing its dominant market share in online search to give its own products and services an unfair competitive advantage, has been given a clear signal of disapproval from Europe.

The European Parliament on Thursday voted in favour of preventing "any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by operators of search engines". The motion, passed with a clear majority of 384 to 174 votes, stressed the need "to prevent online companies from abusing dominant positions" and recommended "un-bundling search engines from other commercial services".

With a dominant market share in online search of more than 90 percent in most European countries, Google was clearly the target of the motion. The recommendation of un-bundling search from other commercial services hints at a break-up of Google to separate out its search engine from other Google products.

Whatever the shape of the measures that will ultimately have to be taken to put an end to Google's continued anti-competitive behaviour, they will have to be quite drastic. Whilst a break-up of the internet giant is almost certainly a solution, there may be means to effectively address the current problem that is harming so many online businesses and ultimately consumers today: Google is struggling with an identity crisis of having to be a neutral organiser of information and at the same time being under pressure to maximise commercial gains from its advertising, online news, video, mapping, price comparison, shopping and many other services.

"It's long been clear that Google uses its search results to unfairly advantage its own services," said John M. Simpson, Director of Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project.

A lengthy antitrust investigation by the European Commission has centred on four areas of concern including the way in which Google gives preferential treatment to its own services when displaying search results. Several opportunities granted by the European Commission to the Internet giant to make concessions by altering the way it displays its search results have failed to produce acceptable proposals as Google's proposals were deemed woefully inadequate.

The ultimate decision on taking the case forward to finding a suitable solution that will effectively and permanently restore fair competition online now rests with EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Note to readers:
One News Page, of which the author is a director, has been battling with Google's anti-competitive practices for several years. In the past, it was dealt an unexplained search "penalty", imposed manually by Google, which relegated its web site into obscurity on Google's search results for a period of nine months. Through its "Have I been penalised..?" initiative, One News Page is campaigning for greater transparency surrounding search penalties.


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