Google To Regulators: We’re Doing A ‘Good Job’

    June 27, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

This week, Google addressed recent proposals it presented to the European Commission in an attempt to settle a lengthy antitrust investigation. These proposals already went further than those Google offered up successfully to the Federal Trade Commission here in the U.S. The commission recently said they didn’t go far enough, and Google competitors think the proposals are so bad that it would be better for Google to make no changes at all. Google’s position: We think we did a pretty good job, and we’re delivering the answers people want.

Do you think Google should have to make changes to how it operates as a search engine with regards to its competitors? Do the proposals go far enough? Too far? Did Google do a “good job”? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Back in April, the European Commission put out public documents discussing Google’s proposals, giving competitors some time to offer feedback. In late May, Commissioner Joaquin Almunia made comments indicating that Google’s proposals did not go far enough.

Proposals included the labeling of promoted links, offering an opt-out option for its vertical search services, stopping the inclusion of obligations for partners to source online ads to exclusively to Google, and no longer imposing obligations preventing advertisers from managing search campaigns across competing ad platforms. You can read about these in more detail here.

Google took to its Europe Policy blog on Monday to defend itself again, as competitors have continued to voice complaints about the company’s business practices. The post is called “Answers people want”.

“You expect Google to give you the very best search results,” the post, written by SVP and General Counsel Kent Walker, begins. “Just the right information, at just the right time, without hassle or cost. We started out by showing you ten blue links. Advances in computer science now let us provide richer and better answers, saving a lot of time and effort. If you search for the ‘height of the Eiffel Tower’, that’s probably what you want – right there on your screen or mobile phone, not several clicks away. So that’s what we give you. Ask Google for places to eat in New York and we aim to show pictures of restaurants, plus reviews, prices, hours, location, directions, and more. All right there, with no extra effort required.”

It’s almost an ad for Google’s Knowledge Graph at this point. Google launched a new carousel feature for local businesses last week, by the way and just expanded the Knowledge Graph further in Europe, by adding Sweden.

“We’ve been discussing these innovations with the European Commission as they have reviewed our search and advertising business,” Walker continues. “We know that scrutiny comes along with success, and we have worked hard to answer their questions thoroughly and thoughtfully. When the Commission outlined four areas of ‘preliminary’ concern last summer, we submitted proposals to address each point in a constructive way. Our proposals are meaningful and comprehensive, providing additional choice and information while also leaving room for future innovation. As we’ve always said, we build Google for users, not websites. And we don’t want to hamper the very innovations that people like best about Google’s services. That’s why we focused on addressing the Commission’s specific concerns, and we think we did a pretty good job.”

“The Internet is the greatest level playing field ever,” Walker concludes. “More and more, people are voting with their feet (or at least their cursors), getting information from apps, general and specialised search engines, social networks, and a multitude of websites. That free flow of information means that millions of websites (including ours) now compete directly for business, bringing you more information, lower prices, and more choice. We very much appreciate the Commission’s professionalism and integrity throughout this process, and look forward to reaching a sensible solution.”

What that solution is, however, remains to be seen, as Google’s proposals already go further than what was accepted by the Federal Trade Commission here in the U.S.

Following Google’s blog post, FairSearch, the coalition of companies (including but not limited to companies in the travel industry) making up one of Google’s biggest opponents, sent us the following statement about Google’s proposals, from Thomas Vinje, counsel to FairSearch Europe:

Google has made its proposals to the European Commission to remedy its abuses of dominance (click here for full proposal). It says those proposals are “meaningful and comprehensive, providing additional choice and information.” Google’s statement is a glittering generality, without any substance. The reality is unfortunately quite different, because Google’s proposals would further stifle competition. In short, it would be better to do nothing than to accept Google’s proposals.

Google’s proposed solution would simply allow Google to continue prominently to display its own related services in the prime real estate of the page. Links to competing sites would be included, but in a manner that is designed to dissuade users from clicking on them. Moreover, the sites of some of Google’s main competitors – some of the most recognised brand names – are explicitly excluded from the proposal. Those competitors that do qualify for inclusion are almost entirely dependent on Google’s discretion and in some cases need to pay in order to be featured. Google’s proposal would turn a competition abuse into an additional revenue stream for Google. Far from solving the Commission’s competition concerns this proposal will raise competitors’ costs, limit choice and cement Google’s anti-competitive behaviour. Consumers deserve better.

Google can innovate without disadvantaging rivals and depriving consumers of the benefits of competition.

Google is being disingenuous. Its proposed remedies, if accepted, would only entrench its existing monopoly, fill its already brimming coffers, and deprive consumers of its rivals’ innovations.

Additionally, an “informal coalition” of hundreds of European publishers also called on Almunia to reject Google’s proposals.

Speaking on behalf of the informal press publishers’ coalition, the President of the complainant VDZ (German magazine publishers’ association), Prof. Dr. Hubert Burda, said, “If Google does not come up with fundamentally improved proposals very soon, we call on the Commission to use its full legal powers, including an immediate Statement of Objections with effective remedies. Fair and non-discriminatory search with equal criteria for all websites is an essential prerequisite for the prosperous development of the European media and technology sector.”

The President of complainant BDZV (Federation of German newspaper publishers), Helmut Heinen, underlines: “As a minimum requirement, Google must hold all services, including its own, to exactly the same standards, using exactly the same crawling, indexing, ranking, display, and penalty algorithms. Google must not use third party content beyond what is truly indispensable for navigation purposes in the horizontal search without prior consent.”

It’s worth noting that German publishes have a particular beef with Google, who just made Google News opt-in for publishers in the country, to avoid having to pay licensing fees, which a new law would require Google to do operating the product as it does elsewhere.

The FTC is said to be looking at Google’s display advertising business these days. In fact, the FTC also warned Google this week (along with a bunch of Google’s competitors) that they need to get better at disclosing sponsored search results. This is something Google’s competitors have complained about Google doing, while also doing similar things themselves.

The FTC is also reportedly reviewing Google’s recent acquisition of Waze. Meanwhile, the European Commission is said to be in the preliminary stages of an Android probe.

Should Google be required to make changes? What would you like to see Google change? Share your thoughts in the comments.

  • http://www.onlinetv.com Randy Penn

    What kind of job is it to take all the information gathered by website owners and display it instead of sending them on? “If you search for the ‘height of the Eiffel Tower’, that’s probably what you want – right there on your screen or mobile phone, not several clicks away. So that’s what we give you. Ask Google for places to eat in New York and we aim to show pictures of restaurants, plus reviews, prices, hours, location, directions, and more. All right there, with no extra effort required.”

    So if you dedicated years to do the reviews, pictures, and more, you have been searched and copied and will never see a user again as Google steals your action. Their advertising affiliate webfarm has turned their information over in a form they dictated to glean all information needed. You are no longer useful and no reason to become a click away, even a click to your site is no longer needed. MAYBE, just maybe they will list you under the answer but according to Google no one will need more from their search than a Google answer. That is an evil company.

  • Mike

    They’re the best partners that NSA’s project PRISM could ask for. Good job Captain gummy smile!

  • http://www.funhelps.com funhelps

    They do!
    Thats thereason they become the biggest seeker, but in some exceptions they could be presented more flexible.

  • Jon

    I long for the day that other companies take a good slice and Google becomes merely a contender not big brother it is now.

    However credit where it is due, Google are persistent, innovative, optimistic, go-get-it – they are fantastic at what they do. Is the problem a lack of anti-trust, simply that Google took a lead which it is hard to win back or that the competition simply are not as good or as proactive and visionary.

    So yes please smash the monopoly and regulate Google as much as you see fit but finally do aknowledge that they are where they are because of a lack of serious competition and because in the final analysis I suspect that most of us who dont like Google being sole contender do not put it into action, we still finally go to Google when we need something and need it quick and easy because they are so good at what they do.

    Only competition will really resolve this.

    • wmaster

      before 2011, google was a really cool company, but with this changes (ads above fold, penguins, pandas, serp quality, payday loans from mr. cutts) they lost any reputation and creating ‘self-fish’, ‘uncle sam’ reputation.

  • brad

    Regulators have no balls. We’ve seen that before when it comes to big companies that crap on everyone else. Those twats at Google are filling the web with spam, scraped content and garbage. They make it unprofitable for publishers to create great content, so now the only way for publishers to survive is to create low quality spam sites which they throw away when those morons at Google apply their penalties. Investing in a quality site is now like throwing cash down the toilet. Like a mindless parasite feeding off its host, Google doesn’t see they are killing the thing that keeps them alive.

    • wmaster

      google knowlegde dublicated spam, ads above fold, big brands and whitelisted sites of internet coalition. BTW: amazon even rank for HQ keywords with ‘product not available’ pages!
      Youtube videos have enormous rank!

  • http://topshelfcopy.com Doc Sheldon

    I have a hard time understanding why whenever a company gets big enough, everyone starts trying to regulate them like they were a public utility.

    While Google has its issues, I don’t see the way they decide what to show in the SERPs as one of them. If anything, they should follow the FTC guidelines on clearer marking of ads and promotions.

    • John Bligh

      Well said, Doc. There a feed frenzy directed against Google at the moment and I think that some people see them as a public utility. Yes, they have to be careful about ethics but they are to be admired for what they have done in a very short life and we all owe them a lot. Let’s be rational in our judgement, not hysterical.

  • http://www.enviroequipment.com/used-environmental-equipment.html Enviro Equipment Inc.

    What bothers me the most is that Google may conduct its affairs one way in North America and another way in Europe, which potentially gives European companies an advantage over its North American/Asian competitors. Whatever rules Google settles upon with the European commission should also be enacted around the world.

  • wmaster

    cool. google really need big spanking lesson, because they think what they are government and dictatorship.

    Same penalty for ALL sites, NO Whitelists, No High Authority Excuses!

  • TOTO

    Google needs to be regulated like a public utility. PERIOD!

  • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin

    Google has revolutionized search and given many great tools to advance our lives and change the world. This does not give any excuse though for some of its practices.

    The issue is marketing. Do no evil. Google has to live up to is byline while delivering profits. Its is after all here to make money.

    Still a Google fan even after some manual penalties.

  • http://www.ChefLeeZ.com Chef LeeZ

    It’s a shame .. but Google Browsers DO Not Play Well With All The Children. PayPal being one of those affected where all Google mobile browsers will remove PayPal form fields from buyers view so buyer can’t complete the instructions to the merchant and or the last one or two input fields. These forms work perfectly well on internet explorer and ie version of Google’s chrome browser. So why not work on the other Google browsers and Android? Is it a form of competitor blackmail?

  • http://auroraborealis524.blogspot.com auroraborealis

    google is a good job

  • http://auroraborealis524.blogspot.com auroraborealis

    that’s a good job

  • clarkg1967@live.com

    Google needs to be broken up. It’s a no brainer. Clearly any government entity that doesn’t do it by now, is being paid off. Period. Google has given up any chance to redeem themselves, and nobody should even give this a second thought. And not broken in 2, but more like 60 competing companies, minimum. I want my privacy back. I want to do proper SEO and get the search relevance I deserve. How about you? Please redistribute freely. Thx.

  • Theendisnigh

    Well well well…. Google has had it coming, Panda and Penguins TERRIBLE effect on small business, Adblocker, dubious tax dealings, data sharing with governments, people boycotting the search engine because they do not see Google in postive light.

    One word: Karma

    What comes around goes around Google, from that law you are not immune.

    And the picture above with a false smile speaks a thousand words. Is he some kind of GoogleClone TM of Matt Cutts ?

    Have some of your own medicine.

  • http://www.ridgebackpuppies.com Mark

    Are you kidding me? Do a few searches on everyday keywords and you do not get organic results back with those keywords. Oh yes, they “might” be related to some degree. However, what do you think are the keywords in the ads that get served up? You guessed it. The exact keyword phrase you typed in for your search.

    Clearly Google is manipulating the organic search results to favor their adwords program.

  • http://www.guestus.com Guestus

    Everybody hates Google, and for tons of good reasons. But, and I blame myself as well, we gave and give Google its power. How many of you run ads, use Google to search? I pay ads…for almost 10 years and I will continue to do so, because it’s killing my good position in Serps, obtained with lots of works.

    And the governments will do nothing about it. Google has way too much money to bribe everybody…

  • Concernedamerican

    I think google should change the fact they give up their consumers info to the NSA via a backdoor system. If they truly did not willingly give up consumer info without warrant then develop a system to block the Prism software from collecting user data!

  • http://techkids.co.uk Curtis Parfitt-Ford
  • John D

    When we use Free services – they have all authority, we have none.

    How can we protect ourselves?

    – use fictitious names
    – provide minimum information
    – don’t upload photos that you don’t want on town-hall notice board.
    – clear browser cookies and flash cookies daily/weekly
    – turn off browser Malware “protection” tracking and Geo tracking.