After a three year investigation involving complaints about blocking competitors, Google has offered further concessions aimed at avoiding a possible $5 billion fine. Reuters, or the European Commission (EC), has yet to reveal any details of the new proposal
Originally, the EC investigated Google with a report that detailed “four areas of concern.” These concerns included:
Vertical search/”search bias” (Google “favoring” its own services vs. rivals)
Use of third party content (e.g., reviews) as part of Google’s own services (e.g., Places)
Advertising exclusivity with publishers
Portability of ad campaigns to competing search engines
At this point, three of these points have been dealt with. The first point is the issue. The “vertical search” is the target of intense lobbying. Google has proposed three remedies that will address this first issue, which includes the following:
Google labeling its own properties as such
Google agreeing to “prominently show at least three links to rival, non-Google sites that have information relevant to a user’s query”
Third party verification of Google’s compliance
So far, the proposed settlement hasn’t been approved, although Google has apparently been testing rival links in its UK local search results. This screenshot is from a Webmaster World discussion.
Google’s initial “rival links” proposal has been under scrutiny by their competitors, saying that they are inadequate. They feel that if left the way they are, it wouldn’t do anything to address Google’s “abuse of market power.”
It is believed that, according to an issued statement in May, additional Google concessions would be necessary if they want to avoid fines and penalties.
“Given the failure of Google to make a serious offer last time around, we believe it is necessary that customers and competitors of Google be consulted in a full, second market test,” FairSearch lawyer Thomas Vinje said in a statement.
Those groups that are lobbying against Google haven’t seen the company’s modified settlement proposal.