SHOPPING COMPARISON WEBSITES across Europe have teamed up to send an open letter to the EU voicing concerns that Google has not gone far enough in its compliance with a ruling over its Google Shopping service.
The letter is signed by representatives for a number of sites of differing sizes, including Pricerunner, Idealo and most notably RedBrain, which already uses the Google Shopping platform.
In June this year, the European Union issued a record fine to Google for non-compliance after it was decided that Google Shopping's entries into search results are anticompetitive. It was also advised it must open up the platform, with RedBrain among the first to join.
The issues are multiple, but the main point is an attack on Google's business model in which companies who want adverts on the search page take part in an automated auction, with the slot sold to the highest bidder.
The signees believe that because Google has almost limitless resources and is bidding against external suppliers for the same space, it puts them at disadvantage.
Also part of the "compliance remedy" is a commitment to a 20 per cent maximum profit margin. The letter argues that this figure is meaningless when Google itself remains one of the bidders, as 20 per cent of nothing is still nothing.
Further, the firms argue that guarantees of visibility are equally meaningless if Google can beat the system.
In conclusion, the letter explains: "Google's new auction offers nothing of value to consumers. On the contrary, instead of relevance-based search results, which—absent Google's illegal conduct—would naturally contain an appropriate blend of merchants, CSSs, manufacturer sites and so on, users are presented with a selection of advertisements for specific products from specific merchants.
"These are not the best products, the best merchants, or the best prices; they are whatever specific products and merchants are likely to earn Google the most profit from a click."
The letter asks the EU to reject the Google plan and insist on a more robust settlement to the issue. It will now be reviewed by Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner who passed down the original ruling.
It's not known how Ms Vestager will respond to the letter, and whether it will lead to further action against the search giant, but we get the feeling this is going to keep running. μ
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