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EU Offers Google Chance To Settle Prior To Anti-Trust Enquiry 119

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the do-as-we-say dept.
Fluffeh writes "The EU has accused Google of abusing its dominant position in advertising to benefit its own advertising services at the expense of competitors. In a twist however, rather than initiating formal proceedings, the EU has given Google a chance to settle the whole matter without much fuss. They outlined four changes that Google can make that will put it firmly back in the good graces of the EU. Google has been given 'a matter of weeks' to propose remedies to the four issues — which all tie in with how search results are displayed, their format and their portability to other platforms. This matter has come before the EU based on complaints by a few small companies and Microsoft." The four issues: Displaying results to their own services specially, use of user reviews from other sites in search results, Advertising "...agreements result in de facto exclusivity requiring them to obtain all or most of their requirements of search advertisements from Google," and concerns that Google is imposing "...contractual restrictions on software developers which prevent them from offering tools that allow the seamless transfer of search advertising campaigns across AdWords and other platforms..."
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EU Offers Google Chance To Settle Prior To Anti-Trust Enquiry

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  • Google (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hudsonwalls (2644965)
    This is actually what most people commenting on Google's antitrust issues miss. The comments about how easy it is for people to change search engines is not relevant because it isn't even the issue. They cannot see forest from the trees.

    Google's antitrust issues are not about the everyday user. Remember, you are not their customer. You are their product. The antitrust issues are about abuse towards other companies, ad networks and services. You may not care about this if you're selfish and just think abou
    • Re:Google (Score:5, Insightful)

      by neokushan (932374) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:19AM (#40074295)

      I can easily be described as a google fanboy - I have (and love) my Android Phone (a Galaxy Nexus, in fact). I signed up to Gmail back when it was invite-only and people only had about 6 invites to give out (or sell/trade, as was the case back then) and I even use Google+. However, I completely agree with what the above poster is saying. Fanboyism aside, no company should be able to abuse its position in the marketplace. Even if Google isn't entirely guilty or found to not be doing anything deliberately that harms competition, its still absolutely appropriate that they're investigated and regulated accordingly.
      The same should apply to any and all businesses with a large hold on the market, be they software companies, banks, pharmaceuticals, governments and so on.

      I like Google on the whole and I genuinely believe that the founders were genuine in their model of "Do no Evil", but its a huge company now with a lot of power - I find it hard to believe that every single employee, every manager, every executive is entirely altruistic and doing what's best for everyone rather than what's just best for them/Google.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by smwny (874786)
        I am not sure if I am a google fanboy or not. I just use the best product which is often Google. I use GMail, Chromium, and Google Search. I have android on my phone/laptop and contributed to the Go Programming Language. What makes me probably not a google fanboy is I would drop any one of their products in a heartbeat if I found something better. Looking at the changes the EU wants, my answer to all but one is that I would personally be upset if they did what the EU wanted.

        Displaying results to their own services specially

        None of the EU's business. I lik

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xest (935314)

        The problem is the double standards being applied. Whilst yes Google does abuse it's position in some cases, the things it doesn't aren't in any way as bad as the things other tech companies are guilty of. Microsoft's abuse of the standards process with OOXML, Apple's abuse of it's vertical integration, monopoly on music to lock people into it's platform, and it's strong market share in digital content to distort for example, the ebooks market, Facebook's constant illegal breaches of various data protection

        • by Sudline (1552111)
          What about Microsoft ballot screen, and 497 million euros fine from the same EU?
        • It's a pretty silly argument to say that Google have been unfairly singled out, and quite wrong too. The companies that you mention have all had their share of regulatory intervention, especially in the EU. Your first example, Microsoft (exactly who was inconvenienced by their OOXML standard?) is the first company that springs to mind when thinking of EU intervention. Remember the browser choice screen [browserchoice.eu] or the two billion dollars in fines [mashable.com]?

          They are also keeping their eye on Apple in the eBook market [mashable.com], although

          • by Xest (935314)

            "exactly who was inconvenienced by their OOXML standard?"

            They got it recognised as an international standard giving it increased legitimacy, when the standard was incomplete and realistically impossible for competitors to support fully. So to answer your question, people who were inconvenienced by Microsoft's hijacking of the standards process, is anyone who wants to be able to use free software, and not pay a Microsoft tax to be able to interoperate with other businesses in the exchange of documents.

            "They

        • by Americano (920576)

          Microsoft's abuse of the standards process with OOXML

          Certainly obnoxious, but not a crime.

          Apple's abuse of it's vertical integration, monopoly on music

          Really? I wasn't aware my only options to buy music were from Apple. I guess Best Buy, Amazon, Wal Mart, Target, eMusic, and dozens of other online and real-world music sellers didn't get the memo.

          to lock people into it's platform,

          Um. What? Every single song I've ever bought from the iTunes store can be loaded and played on any computer, portable player,

    • More to the point I wonder what company in the EU is a competitor to Google to spark the action.

      • EU probably has plenty of publicity companies.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by chrb (1083577)

      If you're going to shill against Google, you should make sure your points are valid; there are some valid things that they could be criticised for, but just making stuff up isn't going to work.

      Great example is hotel, restaurant etc reviews on Google Maps. They are all taken from competitors services

      No. The reviews on Google maps are submitted by users directly to Google. Non-Google sourced reviews are linked at the bottom ("Reviews from around the web:"), not embedded.

      If you want to use AdWords, you cannot run your ads on competitors services. It is prohibited in the terms.

      [citationneeded]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Microsoft, who filed the complaint, is probably the biggest abuse of using their monopoly to push new products. Walk into a store selling PCs and you'll see bing ads on microsoft computers. re: the other stuff, google respected copyright when it came to reviews, but they removed such reviews anyways.

    • by c (8461)

      Hmmm... another recently created account with no comment history bashing Google in a long first post (or close to it).

      Knock it off. The only thing you're accomplishing is making slashdot's admins look useless.

    • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@nOsPAm.keirstead.org> on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:50AM (#40074611) Homepage

      Google is intentionally abusing their position to promote their own products and hide competitors. Yes, this thing matters.

      LMFTFY:

      Google is intentionally abusing their position to improve the overall user experience. Yes, this thing matters.

      There, that's better.

      When I do a search from JFK to LAX, guess what - it is NICE that Google immediately knows that I am interested in a flight and shows me prices. It is NICE that they will show me a map and photos of my destination. It reduces the number of clicks and get gets me what I want faster. The same can be said for all of Google's optimized in-line services. Furthermore, I have never in my life ever heard of evidence showing that Google actually hides the result of a competitor... do you have any evidence to back that up (that is not already refuted)?

      Google is very upfront about everything they do, and there are ample other search engines you can use as a user, and that people can advertise on as well.

      • by makomk (752139) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @10:20AM (#40076157) Journal

        Not only that, but the company that complained about Google offering this additional information in search results was Microsoft, who do exactly the same thing in their own search engine Bing. They're fully aware that Google search will be less usable if the EU gets its way, and are effectively using the EU to try and force Google to cripple their search in order to drive users to Bing.

        (Well, technically I think it was the Microsoft subsidiary which provides shopping results for Bing which submitted the EU complaint, but it's effectively the same thing.)

      • by rgbrenner (317308)

        When I do a search from JFK to LAX, guess what - it is NICE that Google immediately knows that I am interested in a flight and shows me prices.

        Google scrapes the data from another site. That site gets to pay for the expense of collecting the data, and the bandwidth of Google's scraper, but gets to display none of their ads. Google comes along, takes the data, and displays their ads next to it instead.

        I would not call that nice.

        Would you also call it nice if your ISP dynamically deleted the ads from all of the sites you visit and displayed their own ads instead? Because in a way, that's what Google is doing.

        • by vakuona (788200)

          I could be mistaken, but I thought that was because they owned ITA. So they are using their own data, which they also provide to competitors.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Another case in point is the exclusivity agreement in AdWords. If you want to use AdWords (and you often have to because it's the prominent player and they also own Doubleclick since long time ago), you cannot run your ads on competitors services. It is prohibited in the terms. That is just monopoly abuse.

      Mind providing a link to this point? I work at Google, more on the client side-- and have never heard this issue come up, which I find rather odd given that a lot my clients certainly do it. Not saying you're wrong, but I find it hard to believe.

    • Re:Google (Score:5, Interesting)

      by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @07:22AM (#40074749) Journal

      The forest for the trees is that a: microsoft does this and b: they're the ones leading this campaign against google and encouraged others to campaign against google. But nice try.

      changing search engines is exactly true, and you *can* do that. However, scraping data from "competitors" (which they aren't) - scraping data from sites with good data to aggregate their reviews is not an abuse of position. It's aggregation of information. Taking yelp reviews for google maps reviews is an agreement google had with yelp. That's not discrimination, that's a strawman to call that "competition" or abusing competition.

      The adwords thing is something stupid, but it's not any different than Microsoft getting entire corporations to sign up for using windows and requiring that they do not support any other OS (yes, this is in every company wide subscription based windows 7 deployment/office365 agreement).

      Nice try to mislead the entire issue, step by step, along with a similar reply. from Neokushan. Can we stop with the obvious shills to just make this sound like it's a real problem? the "I love (thing), but (comments of hate for a product)" is a really old shill technique and we're bored of it. It's like "I'm an MSCE and love windows and do windows deployments all day, but microsoft is evil". We're tired of that kind of shit.

      If you had linked to a real article covering the matter [politico.com] you'd see that the EU is just telling google to comply before they look to press charges.

    • by khallow (566160)
      So why is this story about Google's abuse of their search engine and not about the European Union's abuse of regulatory power? I consider the former a case of normal use. Providing search engines, particularly on the scale that Google does, requires some sort of funding. If Google gets it in part by using it for their advertisement, then I see that as normal use.

      In contrast, I don't see the case for EU interference in this matter. Other search engines can do the same thing that Google is doing, so I don'
    • Re:Google (Score:4, Informative)

      by rgbrenner (317308) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @08:51AM (#40075309)

      Another case in point is the exclusivity agreement in AdWords. If you want to use AdWords (and you often have to because it's the prominent player and they also own Doubleclick since long time ago), you cannot run your ads on competitors services. It is prohibited in the terms. That is just monopoly abuse.

      There is no such clause in the AdWords terms of service or in the guidelines. You can check it yourself:
      https://adwords.google.com/select/tsandcsfinder [google.com]
      http://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/bin/static.py?hl=en&guide=1316546&page=guide.cs&rd=2 [google.com]

      I've been advertising on AdWords for 10 years.. I have never seen such a policy, or heard of such a policy with regards to AdWords.

      AdSense does have that policy. IE: if you place google ads on your website, you cannot place bing ads on your website also.

      ADSENSE != ADWORDS.

    • Hello, dear Astroturfer (brand new account, immediate posting, anti-Google bent, false information about Google practices). I see that you at least are changing tack. No longer is Google evil because it is abusing its search monopoly, it is now evil because they are abusing their ad monopoly.

      Here's one area where you have a point, and I'll leave it up to the courts to ferret out the details: if they are going into exclusive agreements with sites that leverage their position in one market (say, email) to arg

    • by vakuona (788200)

      This you are their product meme is ridiculous. We are not their product. We are one their customers, as are the merchants trying to sell to us. The whole, "you are the product" idea makes about as much sense as claiming that shoppers are the product in a shopping mall. It is not insightful!

      And yes, the ability of users being able to change search engines is relevant. To contrast with Microsoft anti-trust issues, Microsoft refused to allow PC makers to install alternative browsers on their systems to push th

  • by Mattygfunk1 (596840) * on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:10AM (#40074263)
    The European Commission appears to be quite specific and detailed in it's requests. It's encouraging that a body has enough resources to protect even slight issues regarding competition.

    That said, "slight" might be worth millions to Google / its competitors, especially as smaller firms have complained as well as Microsoft.

    • Is it not normal practise to give companies a chance to rectify complaints before going to formal legal proceedings anyway? Unless serious harm has been done, like an oil spill.

      • by Splab (574204)

        No of course not, europeans are evil; they will plot and plot, and when you least expect it, they will come out of the bush, tackle you and steal all your money. Never go there!

        That being said, generally they will come at you like a ton of bricks if they suspect you of doing something illegally (cartel), but it's just a matter of antitrust they will ask you to get back in line or face the wrath of some severely worded letters.

  • Google currently has 66% of the search market... Interesting that Microsoft is arguing that 66% market share amounts to a dominant, monopolisitic amount that puts Google into anti-trust territory. I wonder what market share Windows and Office currently have, and if Microsoft would accept that they have a monopoly there?
    • by kombipom (1274672)

      Being a hypocrite doesn't automatically make everything you say wrong.

      • by 91degrees (207121)
        Doesn't it typically make half of what you say right?
    • We are talking about EU here, not US. In most of the European countries Google has market share of more than 95% (in my country too). It is often the only choice you have as far as pay per click advertising goes.

      On a side note, 60%+ is considered a monopoly anyway.
      • by Elldallan (901501)
        In EU antitrust legislation a company doesn't even have to have >50% market share to be covered by the antitrust legislation, the company only needs to have a dominant position within the market or a substantial part of the market . To date the lowest market share that has been found to be "dominant" is 39.7%.
    • by Serpents (1831432)
      In EU market share is not the only factor determining dominant position. However, 60% market share is usually the level when a company has to start watching its every step.

      In general, a dominant position derives from a combination of several factors which, taken separately, are not necessarily determinative [5] [europa.eu]

      [5] Case 27/76 United Brands and United Brands Continentaal v Commission [1978] ECR 207, paragraphs 65 and 66; Case C-250/92 Gøttrup-Klim e.a. Grovvareforeninger v Dansk Landbrugs Grovvareselskab [1994] ECR I-5641, paragraph 47; Case T-30/89 Hilti v Commission [1991] ECR II-1439, paragraph 90.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:30AM (#40074531)

    First, the EU begins their second assertion by not being sure. Are they serious? Emphasis is mine:

    Our second concern relates to the way Google copies content from competing vertical search services and uses it in its own offerings. Google may be copying original material from the websites of its competitors such as user reviews and using that material on its own sites without their prior authorisation.

    Then they base their next point on this unsubstantiated assertion...again, bold is mine.

    In this way they are appropriating the benefits of the investments of competitors.

    To make matters worse, they conflate the two issues to emphasize another point, this time focusing on the possibility. Again, emphasis mine.

    We are worried that this could reduce competitors' incentives to invest in the creation of original content for the benefit of internet users. This practice may impact for instance travel sites or sites providing restaurant guides...

    Here is the question:

    Was any investigation done? Doesn't sound like it!

    • by Xtifr (1323) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:48AM (#40074597) Homepage

      Google may be copying original material from the websites of its competitors such as user reviews and using that material on its own sites without their prior authorisation.

      Bah. If their competitors don't know how to use robots.txt, they're not competent enough to be competitors. On the other hand, if Google is ignoring robots.txt, then I think that would count as unauthorized access, and, given Google's monopoly position, a matter of deep concern.

      Note: I think a great deal of the anti-Google nonsense that gets posted on slashdot is total nonsense (if not outright astroturfing), but what the EU is looking at here is something I think they are fully justified in investigating: actual potential anti-competitive behavior that would make sense for Google to engage in. But I agree with you that investigate is the key word there.

      • by Elldallan (901501)
        The competitors do want their sites to be tracked, after all they want their sites high on Google search etc.(which is part of the complaint).
        What they don't want is for Google to start their own very similar service, "steal" the competitors data, implement said data in their own service and present that service higher in any relevant search.

        Another thing is that as Google clearly has a dominant market position and as such has extra obligations in EU antitrust legislation and an "opt-out" standard such a
    • So true. At least someone here uses their brain instead of their feelings. This is how anti-trust forces operate. They are subjective and unscientific. Almost all of the above posters besides this one have responded with their "feelings" on the matter. Google is evil, so this is OK. How about another approach- Google can do whatever Google wants with their search engine website. It's *their* website. "Google intentionally abusing their position"...they EARNED that position by making a search engine that th
      • by Elldallan (901501)

        How about another approach- Google can do whatever Google wants with their search engine website. It's *their* website. "Google intentionally abusing their position"...they EARNED that position by making a search engine that the whole world uses. They're not doing anything illegal by promoting their own services...that is the point.

        The coalition of nations known as EU has as sovereign nations the right to make laws as they see fit within their borders, that right trumps Google's concerning everything within the borders of EU and EU legislation as presented in "Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union" makes certain business practices illegal
        "Any abuse by one or more undertakings of a dominant position within the common market or in a substantial part of it shall be prohibited as incompatible with the common

    • by Necroman (61604)

      I have a friend that's been part of Google's product review team for a few years. From my understanding, they do not do content scraping for reviews when associating them to products. Websites must actually subscribe and push the data to google to have it included (or present an XML feed for google to fetch or something similar). Google has live humans going through and making sure that the people who sign up to populate product reviews are legitimate (spammers try to push crap comments to the system).

    • They didn't stablish any fact yet. That happens during the trial, and they are trying to get into an agreement to avoid the trial.

    • Was any investigation done?

      I suspect that an investigation was done which determined two things:
      1) It is concretely the case that Google was doing the kind of inclusion of competitors content that is complained about in the past, and
      2) It is clear that Google has stopped at least some of the complained about use

      (Many, many articles on this story have pointed out that both of those are, in fact, the case with reviews on Google.)

      As this is an opportunity for Google to address the concerns in advance of a pote

  • What this means is that Microsoft, having failed to compete in the marketplace, now attempts to compete via the courtroom.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Short story: Google may be using their corporate size to create a monopoly but no-one has checked. Former top-dogs Microsoft and friends are whining that (business) life isn't fair.

    Nothing to see here. Move along, now.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      the "check" is court proceedings. before that it's allegations. if google changes it's ways so that those allegations don't need to be checked.. then it's less likely they will sue google for it. duh.

  • Entertaining isn't it. Not long since the their competitors were bitching about Googles own and paid results not being conspicuously enough marked. Google changed that and it didn't magically drive business to the complainers. Now the same leeches have told the EU that marking them conspicuously gives Google an unfair advantage!

    After wading through 400 pages of self serving complaints from Microsoft fronts and ineffective businesses it seems the EU aren't really convinced they need to leap into action. 2 va

    • by Elldallan (901501)
      I think it's most likely that the Commission looked somewhat into the matter and found that it is likely that Google is up to something that is not completely in line with regulations but that it's not so major that it requires immediate direct intervention. The Commission would probably never to have to intervene and that everyone followed the law and as such prefers to give Google a chance to come clean and change it's ways rather than initiate a costly and time consuming legal process. Like Confucius sai

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