In an unprecedented step, Google has submitted a formal settlement to mollify complaints against its alleged anti-competitive behaviour by its core search business. The settlement includes a package of concessions designed to prevent Google from unfairly promoting its own products at the expense of rival alternatives. The major changes will include labelling of its own services and adding prominent links to competing search engines.
However, while this may mark a major milestone in the battle against Googlisation of the worlds’ information, it’s unlikely to satisfy the complainants. According to Bloomberg, David Woods, a lawyer for ICOMP, remarked flatly “If what has been proposed is labelling or a modified form of labelling, frankly that’s a non-starter.”
While on the surface the EU have certainly made a greater impact than their US counterpart who cleared the search giant of any wrong doing in December, the practical implications shouldn’t be overstated. Google will be hoping that rather than marking a turning point, this concession will actually mark the day that they reinforced their long held monopoly of the European search market. After all, if after three years the extent of the wrist slapping is a small collection of vague and superficial tweaks to the search engines layout, regulation clearly isn’t going to be the answer Google’s adversaries were hoping for.
The complainants will be able to give their no doubt unimpressed thoughts on the proposals shortly but it’s expected that the European Commission will favour this “labelling” route over more aggressive algorithmic measures.