There are two things Monique Goyens, Director General of The European Commission Organization gets right:
- Google’s market dominance is largely fuelled by its access to users’ personal data.
- Google’s own services must be submitted to the same algorithm as competing services.
These are the two main issues concerning the FTC these days, and one came to a conclusion earlier this week, when U.S. District Judge Susan Illston approved a USD22.5 million penalty against Google, for privacy breaches. But what’s 22.5 million considering that in Q3 2012 alone Google made $14.10 billion in revenue, and $2.74 billion in operating income?
The second issue, still under FTC scrutiny, may never be resolved.
There are more and more reports that Google favors its own services against competitors, ranking them higher in the SERPs. And there is no point in denying: things are more than obvious. For example, all first results for “restaurants in Los Angeles” on Google.com feature Google’s own product, ZAGAT. In fact, ZAGAT is annoyingly prominent on the first page in SERPs for many other restaurant-related terms. Competitors like Yelp, TopTable and Open Table are pushed way down low, under Google’s ZAGAT:
As Monique Goyens puts it in a letter to Joaquín Almunia, Vice-President of the European Commission, consumers have a right to receive impartial results based exclusively on their relevance to their queries and without manipulation according to Google’s own commercial interests.
Obviously, Goyens has reasons to concern, but the European Commission seems to postpone looking into the matter. And it would be so easy: a simple search will show how Google’s own products dominate the search results.
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman wrote in a statement:
“Google is no longer in the business of sending people to the best sources of information on the web. It now hopes to be a destination site itself for one vertical market after another, including news, shopping, travel, and now, local business reviews. It would be one thing if these efforts were conducted on a level playing field, but the reality is they are not. The experience in my industry is telling: Google forces review websites to provide their content for free to benefit Google’s own competing product – not consumers. Google then gives its own product preferential treatment in Google search results.”
The FTC is looking into the matter, but they are moving too slow too, and while they take their sweet time, businesses lose critical ROI.