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EU mulls €3bn fine for Google

Devil

Self-promotion ...

How dare they!

OK, how did Google get me on their side?!?

...Cirdan...

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Seriously...

That is one way to hinder progress. Lets take loads of money away from someone who did a job and did it so well that everyone uses them.

When I want to watch a TV show made by the BBC; they send me to iPlayer immediately. But they could have sent me to netflix, amazon prime, itunes, google play, etc etc etc. Surely by the same logic the BBC/ITV/C4/C5/ETC need to be fined for putting their streaming service first on the list (or in fact the only one on the list).

I would love these bureaucrats to ask the population if they have a problem with Googles search practices before spending all our tax money on forcing Google to pay up.

Google really need to get around to buying an island and calling it a nation state.

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Pint

Re: Seriously...

"Google really need to get around to buying an island and calling it a nation state."

Now that would solve the Gibralter issue as well, have a pint.

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Re: Seriously...

You clearly don't understand competition law. The Commission clearly do. Which is why they're doing what they're doing.

Whether they're right or not, is another matter. These things are rarely black-and-white. But most countries have laws against abuse of monopolies, because all economists recognise an abuse of monopolies as bad for the economy. It makes markets less efficient, leads to overpricing and restricts innovation. This is why we have regulators - and mergers of big companies have to be approved by government.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Seriously...

Are you saying the BBC et al hacked Google to put their service the first in a Google search for a program?

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Re: Seriously...

The same could be said for the Mafia vis-a-vis insurance schemes, and other rackettering.

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Re: Seriously... yes, seriously.

> That is one way to hinder progress

Not at all, it's "free" money.

The americans realised a long, long, time ago that imposing massive fines on foreign companies is an excellent and painless way of raising revenue. It brings in enormous amounts of capital. It costs the taxpayer nothing and, well, they're foreign companies, so who cares?

Since they've been doing this to british and european companies, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong about the EU (or the UK, if it had the balls) fining "their" companies back, to the same extent, for acting illegally.

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Thumb Up

Re: Seriously...

That is one way to hinder progress. Lets take loads of money away from someone who did a job and did it so well that everyone uses them.

You have pretty much summed up the European Commission in one sentence. "You have lots and lots of spare cash. We want some of it. Give it to us now."

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Re: Seriously...

It's not about penalising them for doing well, it is penalising them for abusing that position of dominance to stop anyone else from being able to have a chance at developing and releasing a competing product as well as practices to stifle the growth of existing competitors. If they focused on making their product the best it could be nobody would be complaining.

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Re: Seriously...

No I am saying that many organisations suggest you use their product for a "such and such". Google simply suggests their email service when you look for email, etc.

My BBC comparison is a overly simplified one; you search a show on their site and they show you iplayer as its their product.

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Re: Seriously...

If google put the words "ADVERT" at the top of the search listing with Gmail or Cal or similar would that be ok? All they are doing is suggesting their products; which are often what the user is looking for.

Are you suggesting that a supplier is not aloud to suggest their own product? If I go to bing and search for email I get result #1 as hotmail? Yahoo shows ymail as an option above gmail? Why are they not the target of the commission?

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Re: Seriously...

It's ironic / chronic that Google uses stifling innovation as a reason they should not pay to transit you tube video, whilst at the same time restricting innovation through their monopoly in the search and advertising.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Seriously...

They must have, how else would they get above googles own home grown products.

The problem I see with all of this is the quality of some of the complainants in this case. As an example streetmap. Their complaint is that google maps appears front and centre and their site has died because traffic doesn't get directed to it.

I actually used to use streetmap years ago, but cannot any more because it simply didn't keep up with the competition, and this seems to be the core of many of the complaints, it's from formerly top ranked companies who simply didn't update their product and were then left in the dust by google.

Besides that, it's a google product which is advertising google products. There are still a number of alternative search engines out there that people could use instead, but again don't due to the same issue, quality has not continued to evolve over time and has been left in the dust by google.

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Re: Seriously...

Unfortunately, this is new territory. This isn't a horizontal market barrier, it's a vertical barrier inside an existing horizontal section. The Google results page real-estate is so powerful it's now a legislation battleground.

The product is a merger of data from different sources - the search result and e.g. the map section showing the location it's in.

There isn't enough real estate to show all the competing data provider results, and doing so would give ALL of them data about the user, no matter the quality of the returned result.

This leaves two options: No map section - user results permanently impaired, or, Google include a map section from a user-pre-selected provider. Hands up who thinks that'll fly well? (and anyone who thinks it will, I've been there, so back up your claim)

If anyone knows of any other resolutions, I'm all ears, because I can only see disintegration. Also, this is only a precursor to the *real* coming war: Who gets to supply data to a user's AI search - "Hello Siri, where can I buy this product?". That will be why we can't have nice things.

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Anonymous Coward

Our economies are in the toilet.

What with the refugee crisis, the wars in the middle east, and a gazillion politicians to feed.

We need all the money we can steal.

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itunes

Most anti-competitive thing in mobile market (IMHO) is no iTunes on android (though Google have Google Play for movies, TV etc available for iphone / ipad)

I know a lot of iPhone users who only have iPhone as it's only (easy) way for them to get their iTunes purchased music / vids on their phone.

If iTunes was available on android a lot of them would go android on next phone change to save money.

Doubt we will see the Euro Comish folk taking action against Apple soon as they seem to have a special hatred for Google currently & not interested in other tech companies (MS probably happy as years back they were EU number 1 tech hate target)

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Re: itunes

Ah but as the article says, having a monopoly is not illegal. Using a monopoly to stifle competition is.

So, can you care to explain how iTunes not being on Android (or any other service) is stifling Android in any way, shape or form?

- S.A

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Re: itunes

If apple wanted iTunes on Android then they could write an app for that, and sell it. Look, I just solved a great complaint there.

Just because Apple has made it difficult to move media to Android, that does not make it the fault of Android.

They have a search tool that puts the results of Google Maps, Google Shopping, Google Travel, and YouTube at the top. That is what this is all about.

It is allowed in the supermarket but not on the phone. The curry sauce you buy suggest you buy the same branded Naan. The Lasagne sheets you buy suggest the same brand of Sauce.

So Apple not moving iTunes over to Android is different. Now, IF searches done in Safari on iStuff redirected the top searches to the iTunes store then apple would fall foul of what the EU is complaining against.

I don't see the big problem, perhaps Google should be forced to add a disclaimer (Like the sponsored word with ads) to show that the searches are promoted as it is a partner company.

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Re: itunes

tiggity,

I'd be amazed if Apple have a monopoly. If you don't actually have a monopoly, you can't be accused of abusing it.

There was a brief period when I thought Apple might get into trouble, because the iPhone was so powerful in the smartphone world, and the iPad completely dominated tablets.

Again, there was a period when iTunes was an effective monopoly in music downloads. But with Amazon, Google and others in that space, as well as the music streaming services, I'd be amazed if they still are.

It can certainly be argued that it was that monopoly that made the iPod king. But then very few people buy any MP3 players anymore, it's all done on phones. So that ship has sailed. The monopoly has probably gone, and regulators don't tend to move that quickly. After all, the Microsoft browser monopoly thing came a whole decade too late to save Netscape! IBM successfully did the lawyer dance for the whole 80s, until the US DoJ got bored, and were never convicted. MS got caught due to having written stuff down, and I'd say Google are mostly in trouble because they took the piss. They had a friendly Commission for years, thought they could lobby, delay and bluster their way out of it - and might have got away with it. Except Juncker was about to get "vetoed" by Cameron, and so did a deal with the German press (Axel Springer), who hate Google, and they pressured Merkel into abandoning her support for him. Whether the commission would have been anit-Google anyway is anyone's guess.

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Re: itunes

The important thing is that iTunes isn't a monopoly. It doesn't have even half the market, what with Google Play, Amazon, and the many streaming alternatives.

Why is it whenever there is an article about the EU dinging Google some idiot has to come along and complain about Apple over the iPhone and iTunes. What part of about "dominant market" do you guys not understand being required for abuse of a dominant market position. Apple has a minority share of phones and less than a majority share of music (bought or streamed)

Just because you don't like the way the law is being applied (against Google but not against Apple) doesn't mean it is being wrongly applied. You can take issue with the law and say you don't think Google has a dominant market position, but it is hard to argue for Apple facing any punishment under current EU competition law other than "because I don't like them".

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Re: itunes

having a monopoly is not illegal. Using a monopoly to stifle competition is.

Actually, you don't need a monopoly to exploit market power, nor even a cartel (itself usually a virtual monopoly). Maybe the Commission might like to look into the UK mobile market then, where the incumbent (vertically integrated) players all own substantial but captive challenger brands pretending to be MVNOs. And in some cases there's a compelling appearance of stifling competiton through predatory pricing through selected resellers, even though the same deal on the captive MVNO's own website is precisely twice the price the reseller offers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: itunes

Android isn't about saving money, it's a better experience with a more open and universal experience. No need longer are you locked to one make of phone, android powers pretty much everything that matters that isn't apple.

Your content moves with you. Don't like this year's Samsung? Fine buy a HTC, a Sony an LG, a Motorola, a Nexus, a oneplus, a huawei, a lonovo, an xaiomi, a whatever....

Also you of course only buy your content the once, none of this apple buy once per device nonsense.

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Re: itunes

Apple is using their monopoly in online music distribution (iTunes) to force customers into buying iPhones. Seems to me, that's exactly what Google is accused of doing with search. They have a monopoly on search, and they're using that to push people towards their own services.

If Google must be forced to have their search engine bring up competitors products and services, why shouldn't Apple be forced to allow their iTunes customers to use the iTunes service on Android?

And if you want an even more direct comparison, this is the same EU that has problems with Google tying Android (Google's OS) to Google's other services such as the Play Store, Maps, etc... If the EU forces Google to offer the Play store services to OSes like Cyanogen, there won't be any difference.

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Re: itunes

Last time I pointed out the same thing in the time of "bundled browsers in PCs" I was told by the Apple crowd that Apple weren't sinners because they were a small part of the market.

But now ....... :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Bonkers

Seems like Google are being penalized for making good products and a search engine that people want to use. the EU are trying to hobble them so their pals at Microsoft stand a chance.

it's utter crap of course, as if I use Google on my PC to search for office software to buy, Microsoft Office is right at the top of my search page, Google Docs doesn't even feature on page 1 of search results.

If I search for an Office suite on my Android phone, guess what turns up right at the top of the results. Yep, all the Microsoft apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc). Again, Google Docs, appearing somewhat down the list of results.

How do the EU explain this?? They can't. This is why Google should fight back against this ruling, it's totally bogus.

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Re: Bonkers

"Seems like Google are being penalized for making good products and a search engine that people want to use."

No, they are being penalised for promoting their own business above the competitors be deliberately rigging the search results. That is the point, it is no longer simple an algorithm that finds the best match to what you asked for, but one where there is another fudge-factor that promotes their own stuff.

Didn't you ever wonder how paid search promotion worked?

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Re: Bonkers

Or maybe it'sa bit like I'm an estate agent selling you a house (the onlyone selling that house so therefore an effective monopoly), and I tell you the only mortgage broker you can use is the agency mortgage broker because no other mortgage brokers exist, when in fact they do and the agency mortgage broker maybe x3 times more expensive that the other non agency mortgage brokers.

It's called Monopoly Abuse.

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Facepalm

Re: Bonkers

"Seems like Google are being penalized for making ... a search engine that people want to use. "

You mean a search engine that people use because they think that Google is the internet and they're too stupid/young to understand there are other search engines in the universe.

Despite their "do no evil" mantra, Google is evil. It has a philosophy of stomping on established businesses, slurping data wherever it can, and won't stop until it has conquered the entire planet.

Quite why people are merrily sleepwalking into this scenario, whilst praising the great God Google for everything it does, I continually fail to understand.

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Re: Bonkers

Yet the original poster stated that his search, on both PC and Android, returned results for Microsoft products ahead of their own. I can't vouch for the correctness of that report, but my experience, using Chromium, a sort of Google product, showed LibreOffice, Apache OpenOffice, and Microsoft Office as the first three non-paid items. Somewhat later came a couple of results for something called WPS Office, and a bit later FreeOffice, another one for WPS Office Free, and finally Google Office, the 11th (non-ad) item on the first page, at the very bottom. On Android (Verizon) I got returns for Microsoft Office, Apache OpenOffice, LibreOffice, and WPS Office 2016 Personal Edition before Google Office. All the sponsored returns in both cases were for various Microsoft Office products.

Here in the Western US, at least, Google seem to (1) honor their commitments to those who pay for their advertising service and (2) not rank their commercial offering in the office software category above their competitors'. This probably is not because they are under pressure not to do so, as they are not under significant pressure here in that respect.

Two reports are not a statistically useful sample, but their consistency suggests that Google, in at least one area where they compete, may be operating honestly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bonkers

What with all that evidence on your side its a wonder the commission didn't simply approach you directly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bonkers

As explained, Microsoft products are promoted above Google's. Try searching for free online picture hosting, flickr and imageshack, azure all there, where is Google photos???

Search for free email. See Gmail listed???

Google arent promoting their services, the opposite infact . Gmail is likely the biggest free email service there is, and they are actively down rating it in search results.

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Re: Bonkers

Yeah, somebody makes something which all can use for free, works perfectly, but then 20 years later the monkeys from Brussels start fining you for being too good.

Compared to the power the Wintel empire once had, the monopoly if Google is innocent. It is funny to see Wintel is still in shock for what happened, unable to grasp the idea that they have to start making products consumers like, since they can not push through their throats anymore.

The good thing though is that the new A8's, 7-Series and S-classes the EU civil servants will buy if they get the 3 billion are made in Europe.

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Re: Bonkers

Fining Google any amount of money insufficient to put them out of business will fail to cure the alleged stupidity of those who equate it with the Internet.

In the meantime they are, to a first approximation, an advertising delivery company and use general search to attract people to see the ads they are paid to deliver. They have a clear interest in providing good general search results so their users come back repeatedly. There is no major barrier to entering the online advertising or search provider business, but there is a substantial barrier to succeeding at it, probably because it is difficult (as Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and others show daily) to provide search results as good as Google does. Google, because of its popularity* with search users, may be able to game users to promote its own services unjustifiably, but probably cannot do it too much or too long if those services are noticeably inferior to the comparable ones of other providers.

* Despite its common use, "dominance" really is not quite the appropriate word because Google has, in fact, no way to control those who search other than user habit and search result quality.

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Not sure on the level of the fine but...

I can see the reason why it is happening. There were reasonable concerns about abuse of monopoly but rather than grumble and moan like Microsoft (and keep 'losing' the browser choice screen), Google managed to come up with an option that was even more abusive as it would cost even more for competitors to simply stand still in the advertising race. Not sure how they thought this would satisfy the worriers and clearly it has failed.

They would have done better to pick a simple option such as a clear split-screen with their stuff one side and everyone else the other so they could appear to give equal weight while still taking half the screen real-estate.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Not sure on the level of the fine but...

And if Google placed icon links to Bing, Yahoo, etc on their main page under the banner "Alternative Search Sources", would it placate the competitors? Would highlighting all "paid" results placate the masses? Frankly anyone who thinks the results from any engine is "neutral" still thinks AOL is the Internet. How many of us would pay hard $ for a search filter removing all "paid" results and undue influence?

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Anonymous Coward

Merkins post neoliberal BS.

Merkins get downvoted.

The system works.

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EU needs to stop mulling, fine them, Google pays up and depsoit money in high interest account, to help offset the taxes the EU will lose when the UK BREXIT 2016 !!!!

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Google usage for search seems to be quite a bit North of 90% in the most populous parts of Europe, and slightly above 70% in the US. There probably is a reason for that, but it is not that other substantially similar services are unavailable or more costly. My hypothesis, based on fairly unsophisticated sampling and analysis every month or two, is that Google's results are just a bit better than those of Bing,Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo. They are not a lot better, and I gave DuckDuckGo a more extended trial last year as default search engine but switched back to Google after about three weeks; the results were not quite as good as I had hoped.

So Google has a monopoly of search, certainly in Europe and arguably in the US, in a market in which they were not the first competitor and in which consumer choice is as completely free as possible, given that none of the commonly used search portals charges users.

Google makes money in large part by selling advertising and displaying the ads to its users, as do others. Its customers are those who pay it for advertising placement, not those who use it for search, even when they are looking for something to buy. They charge their advertisers a fee, and presumably have fairly specific contractual obligations to their customers, the advertisers. They do not, as far as I know, have a contractual or other obligation to those who use their search facilities, but they do have a moderately strong self interest in providing search results that meet the perceived needs or requirements of those users, since failing to do so will cost them search share and consequently reduce the the rates they can charge advertisers, and their profits.

Why, exactly, should they not place the links for products and services they offer immediately beneath those of their paying customers, and above those for every single other vendor of comparable products or services?

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Tit for Tat

So how long before some US court imposes a comparable fine on some EU based company just for balance here. Anyone want to bet on a trade war?

Where's the pop corn, I think the politics of this one could get interesting, Still might be a nice change to watch the diplomats get rich instead of the lawyers.

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While this is a worthy pursuit in its own right - Google has a dominant market position* which it is busy abusing - the really big deal is Google's business model of, essentially, privacy violation for profit on massive, unprecedented scale. For the latter I wouldn't, at all, mind seeing them driven out of the EU (if not existence) by humongous fines (or whatever means, really)**. It is worth noting that the issues are intertwined: ignoring EU privacy / data protection law has given Google a substantial and rather unfair competitive advantage to EU-based outfits having to abide by the same.

* not only with search, but with Android and web advertising, at least

** sadly, the likely outcome is that current arrogance and foot-dragging is replaced with enthusiastic bootlicking once it dawns to Google that serious monies are at stake and with this they emerge relatively unscathed, just a couple of $ billion poorer

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Anonymous Coward

Probably worth the cost to kill all competition.

Ad Words Ad words Ad words dog whistle it as this seems to be the only way to communicate these days.

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Good

Amazon next... please.

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All about self promotion

"Google’s search results page is both a “neutral” platform and a shop-window for its own services."

Neutral?!? Who can claim this with a straight face? Everything is slanted, optimized and filtered to the benefit of the search provider. Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc...they all do so. Ask yourself, why is it that when troubleshooting any Microsoft product, you use Google instead of Bing if you expect the the quickest path to a solution. Ask yourself why, if you are searching for pr0n imagery with all fitlering allegedly disabled, you favor Bing images instead of Google Images. Ask yourself why you closed that Yahoo Movie search and opted for Google's Movie search....was it the endless display of click bait ads?

They all monkey with the results to get your attention and maximize their revenue. Why do most of us keep going back to the Alphabet soup?

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How is Google Abusing Anything?

Does Google pre-install Google as the default search engine in most peoples computers? Wouldn't that be the browser provider? So if Chrome comes with Google, and Edge comes with Bing, what's the problem? Seems here people CHOOSE to use Chrome, and thus choose to use Google?

What about search on phones? People buy Google Android phones, why wouldn't they expect to use Google search? If people want to use Bing, buy a Microsoft Windows 10 phone. I don't even know what search provider is supplied as default on iPhone, but if it's Google, that's Apple's decision/responsibility!

The problem here is that there is no competition to Google's Search, and that is NOT Google's problem. No one is forcing anyone to use Google search unless those people opt into other Google services. So who's downloading Google Chrome on their Google Android and saying "jeese, why is Google my default search engine?"

I think the No. 1 Overall problem is people just don't know how to use Google. I'm sure most readers here get plenty of questions that are easily answered by a suitably crafted Google query. So, people seeing Google results instead of the results they expect probably aren't asking Google the right question.

Think about it this way. You hail a taxi and say "take me to ANY grocery store". The taxi driver has several motivations, the farther they drive you, the more they make. The closer the store, the quicker they can pick up another fare, etc... If YOU, the patron, wanted a specific store, YOU should have asked the driver to take you THERE. Google is just giving you what it feels is most convenient, based on the vagueness of your request. Now imagine that you want the Taxi driver to drive you to a DIFFERENT taxi company's headquarters to pick up another taxi, and then YOU, the patron, refuse to actually pay the first taxi driver. That's what people who use Google to search for a competitors services are essentially doing.

I suggest Google start charging EU users BY QUERY. See if a nickel a search is what people want to pay for completely fair results. If not, maybe people should accept that Google is a company and has to monetize their product somehow, and advertising their own services is one way of doing that.

I don't see anyone suing Apple to force them to sell Chromebooks in their Apple stores.

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Happy

A few things to remember

.. and regardless of country. Companies hate competition as it's bad for business. The goal is a monopoly and if they cannot succeed in that they will try mergers and cartels. Remember how Apple and Google and others agreed on not having to compete for people. Or how pissed off ISPs are if some community tries to deliver their own internet infrastructure.

The Intel/AMD case was a no-brainer and, as with Microsoft, one has to wonder (or perhaps not) why those American companies who complained turned to the EU and gave up regarding the US DoJ.

For more on thoughts about "Anti-competitive practices" try the Wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-competitive_practices

Without laws and regulations regarding companies we end up with something like the old USSR.

As for income inequality our American friends have already surpassed the old USSR.

Lets not be too "blue eyed".

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I find this utterly baffling. I have *never* seen a Google search that places a Google product ahead of a competitor's. Are all my searches mysteriously showing up Google products at the top of other people's searches instead of mine?

Or is it all a complete fabrication? One has to ask, given the eminence grise[1] behind the complaints to the EU.

[1] It's not actually grise, in fact, more like an array of four coloured blocks.

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It's more to do with the minimap section that appears when you search for a location, and the mini product click grid when you search for a product, because Google is using its *own* map service, and its *own* product comparison service (because using anything else wouldn't actually work..).

People are trying to productise metalayer services that, frankly, nobody does better than Google. Nobody has actually shown you can slip a 3rd party search metalayer into Google without it frying in a nanosecond, but they nonetheless demand either that, or the destruction of Google's results integration.

I can't actually see the user benefiting anywhere. Note Bing et al would not be subject to these laws.

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