The European adjustments to Google Shopping are not having the desired effect. This is reported by the European Commissioner for Competition. Competing services are shown in the price comparator, but this does not lead to more traffic for the competitors.
Two years ago, the EU imposed a €2.4 billion fine on Google. This was because the company showed results from comparison shopping Google Shopping in Google’s search results, while the search results from competing comparison shopping services were ranked lower. According to the EU, this was an abuse of market power. Due to the search engine’s algorithm, the results of popular price comparison sites were ‘sometimes only visible on page 4 of the search results’.
After this fine, Google removed the results of Google Shopping from its search results. In addition, Google now offers advertising space in the Shopping service. Competitors can buy ads at the top of Shopping results. This allows competitors to ‘compete on an equal footing’. According to European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, these adjustments are not having the desired effect.
“We may see a display of rivals in the Shopping service. We may see an increase in clicks for web stores. But we’re still not seeing a lot of web traffic for competitive comparison shopping services,” Vestager told the Web Summit. Due to the adjustments of Google Shopping, the results of competitors are indeed displayed, but these are shown in the Google Shopping service itself. This means that the websites of competing services are not visited directly.
British price comparison service Foundem has argued that Google is not complying with EU regulations. The agency wants Vestager to file a case against the company for non-compliance. Foundem was also the company that brought the original EU case against Google by filing a complaint with the EU.
Vestager also indicates that it is closely following the case of the default web browser in Android. Google was previously accused of anti-competitive practices by installing standard Google services on Android devices, without offering users alternative browsers and search engines. As a result, the company was fined EUR 4.34 billion. The EU fined Microsoft in 2013 for a similar reason; the tech company had to pay 561 million euros due to the lack of a browser selection screen in Windows 7 SP1.
Since April 2019, Google offers users in Europe the option to choose a different default browser and search engine. However, competing search engines and browsers have to pay to be mentioned, Vestager reports.