Yelp Joins Effort To Undo Current Google-EU Antitrust Settlement

yelp-600 Yelp has been an increasingly vocal critic of Google for several years. Now it has joined a group of companies opposing the European Commission's current antitrust settlement proposal with Google. Originally Google and Yelp were partners. Google unsuccessfully tried to buy Yelp for a rumored $500 million a year or so before the company went public. Later Yelp complained that Google was including Yelp reviews in its own local product without permission. According to Yelp, Google said it couldn't remove those reviews without removing Yelp from the index entirely. The dispute was ultimately res [...]


Google Comparison Ads Under Fire In UK

google-uk-england-featured The UK financial services industry regulator Financial Conduct Authority is taking a closer look at Google Comparison Ads. UK price comparison sites have complained that Google is unfairly competing with them by placing its own "product" at the top of search results. Comparison Ads, which operate on a CPA basis, are one form of AdWords. Below is an example of how the ads look in US search results: The UK inquiry essentially mirrors broader antitrust ('vertical search") complaints against Google around the globe. Google's pending antitrust settlement in Europe is under fire from poli [...]


Is Google’s European Antitrust Settlement In Jeopardy?

google-eu-featured Widespread dissatisfaction among public and political figures with the existing antitrust settlement between Google and the European Commission appears to be putting the settlement in danger. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the run up to this week's European Parliament elections saw an increase in "rhetoric against the settlement with Google." The article depicts an intense, behind the scenes lobbying effort by both sides: on the one hand Google is trying to bolster the settlement while other officials want to revisit it and potentially start over. The rhetoric and behavior als [...]


New “Open Internet Project” Seeks To Derail Google-EU Antitrust Settlement

google-eu-600 Frustrated by what it sees as the European Commission's capitulation to Google, a new group called the "Open Internet Project" (OIP) seeks to derail the current Google antitrust settlement or create a new investigation. A mixture of French and German publishers and companies are behind the initiative. The OIP claims to represent hundreds more European internet companies which argue, in essence, Google is too powerful and too much in control of what happens online. The group submitted a new competition complaint to the European Commission reasserting or reviving most of the complaints pre [...]


The Google State Of The Union: Strong Yet Vulnerable

google-bulb-logo-ceiling-1397043754 Earlier today, Google published its annual Founders' Letter. This is a kind of "Google State of the Union" missive that Google has published annually since it went public. Many bloggers picked up on the following remark in the document penned by Google CEO Larry Page: "[I]n many ways, we’re a million miles away from creating the search engine of my dreams, one that gets you just the right information at the exact moment you need it with almost no effort." Some people also commented on the glaring omission of any discussion of privacy -- an issue that has generated numerous problems for [...]


India Opens Second Google Antitrust Investigation Over AdWords

google-legal-cash-featured Google is in the midst of an antitrust, anti-competition investigation in India. Not long ago, the company was fined by the  Competition Commission of India (CCI) for not cooperating in that investigation: "not providing information and documents required." Now a separate anti-competition investigation has been opened with the CCI. In that investigation an individual, Vishal Gupta, has complained about suspension of an AdWords account: The complainant had alleged that several remote tech support companies, including his firm, had been suspended from the AdWords programme to promote Goog [...]


Secret Contracts Keep Google In Control Of Mobile Search Argues Lawsuit

google-legal-cash-featured A would be class action lawsuit was filed last week against Google in Federal Court in California. The action seeks to resurrect some of the themes and arguments raised in the now settled FTC antitrust case against the company. While repeating familiar abuse of market power allegations against Google, the new civil case is focused on mobile search and Android devices rather than the desktop. The FTC investigation didn't look at Android. The complaint (embedded below) alleges violations of various antitrust and unfair competition laws. However at its factual core is the argument that Goog [...]


Report: Google Now Master Of Lobbying, Backroom Dealing

google-legal-law-featured An article in the Washington Post asserts that Google has now become a master lobbyist and behind-the-scenes manipulator in Washington. It details the company's increase in campaign contributions and outreach efforts to influence legislators. The message of the lengthy article is that Google is now buying influence and policy outcomes that favor the company. Source: Washington Post There are numerous concrete examples cited for the idea that Google has manipulated policy outcomes or bought influence through contributions to individuals, third party groups or academic institutions. [...]


The War On Links

shutterstock_104739881-fear-of-links In case you didn't notice, we are waging a war over links. Some would say that SEOs are at war with search engines, but I disagree. Search engines and SEOs have a symbiotic relationship; and without meaning to, we've killed the value of the link. The link, once a simple connector from one site to another, has become the subject of intense scrutiny by SEOs, Google, and even the US Copyright Office.  Do you remember what it was like to really "surf" the Internet? The way you could bounce from site to site simply by following blogrolls and webrings? The rush of energy and excitement that [...]


EU Antitrust Chief Says Google Settlement Essentially Done

google-eu-featured Amid criticism from politicians and Google's critics, EU antitrust chief Joaquín Almunia has essentially said that the current version of Google's antitrust settlement proposal is a done deal. While he didn't rule out changes definitively he seems to think complainants' criticisms have been addressed. The current proposal requires Google to give up considerable screen real estate and branding to vertical rivals. Google's opponents want another "market test" (time for criticism and study of the proposal's potential impact). They also don't want to pay Google for placement in contex [...]


EU Settlement Nearly Done, Google Antitrust Drama Shifts To India

Google legal Although the Google antitrust settlement in Europe isn't final it appears we're in the final minutes of the final act. There still may be a surprise or two in store but we mostly know how this story is going to end. Now it appears the Google antitrust drama is shifting to India, where an antitrust investigation against the company is ongoing. According to a report in the Times of India, that country's competition authority, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), has the power to impose a fine of up 10 percent annual revenues, averaged over a three year period. That could mean up t [...]


Google Publishes Full Text Of EU Antitrust Agreement

google-eu-featured This afternoon on its European Blog, Google's General Counsel Kent Walker exposed the full text of the company's third-proposed and tentatively accepted antitrust settlement agreement with European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. Almunia previously declined to make the full agreement available. The document, dated January 31, 2014, is quite long (embedded below) and contains extensive examples of how search results will look in Europe under the new agreement. There are the four areas that will see change or modifications, as summarized by Walker in his post: Changes to our A [...]


Will 11th Hour Objections Derail The Google-EU Antitrust Settlement?

Google Europe When the European Commission recently announced yet another antitrust settlement with Google the matter appeared to be coming to an end. This was the third proposed settlement from Google but indications from EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia suggested that it was essentially final and only formalities remained to approve it. Unlike the two previous settlement proposals, this one is reportedly not going to be subjected to a "market test" (formal review by rivals and critics) -- although the European Commission will be accepting comments, apparently. Google's critics immediate [...]


Wow! See How Much Screen Real Estate Google Is Giving Rivals In Its EU Antitrust Settlement

Google's finally reached a proposed agreement with the European Union over antitrust charges. Judging from screenshots the EU has released, it will give Google rivals unprecedented positioning in Google's results, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. Consider how the EU is saying that shopping results will appear, as part of the agreement. The before: And the after, based on screenshots that the EU has released: In the after, you can see an "Alternatives" section that gives shopping search engines co-equal space alongside Google's own advertisers who buy product listing ads (which [...]


It’s Done: Google Settles Search Antitrust Case In Europe

Google EU Roughly a year after Google settled an antitrust investigation with the US Federal Trade Commission, Bloomberg is reporting that Google and the European Commission have reached a final settlement that would end the regulator's antitrust search investigation against the company. According to the report, "Google will escape fines or any finding by regulators that it may have discriminated against competing search sites." Google similarly escaped any significant fines or penalties in the US investigation. The heart of the controversy as it has evolved -- and the core of the settlement -- is [...]


Report: Google Close (Again) To EU Antitrust Settlement

Google EU The third time may be the charm. According to Reuters Google is (once again) "close to settling a three-year antitrust probe by European regulators after it offered 'much better' concessions" to the European Commission (EC). However Google has been here before. Two previous antitrust settlements were strenuously opposed and thus defeated by Google critics and competitors. As part of that lobbying campaign several sponsored studies were issued, which uniformly found the core of Google's settlement proposals -- prominently showing links to rivals' results -- would have little or no impact on [...]


EU Wants More Search Concessions, Google Defies French Authority

Google Europe Round and round she goes. The European Commission is seeking a final round of "concessions" from Google in an 11th hour effort to settle potential antitrust claims against the company. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia made public statements asserting that Google needs to deliver additional, revised proposals within weeks to avoid a formal antitrust proceeding. What we have now is a kind of high stakes game of chicken. For well over a year there has been a very public back and forth between Google, the European Commission and Google's rivals, who object to the various proposals [...]


EU: Google Antitrust Concessions “Unacceptable” As Second Study Condemns “Rival Links”

google-eu-featured European Union competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia announced Friday in a Spanish radio interview that Google's second round of concessions in its current antitrust settlement proposal were "unacceptable." The main obstacle to settlement is still Google's treatment of competitors and its "own content" in "vertical search" results. Almunia was directly involved in negotiating the original settlement proposal with Google, which offered to put links to competitors' sites in a privileged position in search results. He seemed initially (and perhaps naively) surprised when it was almost imme [...]


Canada’s Competition Bureau Escalates Google Antitrust Investigation

Google legal Canada’s Competition Bureau (CCB) has indicated that it will proceed with a formal antitrust investigation against Google. The CCB had been engaged in a preliminary inquiry. A new CCB court filing requests a range of documents that will potentially show, according to the CCB, Google's alleged abuse of market power and anti-competitive behavior in Canada. The claims in the investigation are similar to those raised by the now concluded FTC investigation and the current European Commission investigation. The Financial Post in Canada first reported the action by the CCB. The filing assert [...]


Sponsored Study Argues Google’s “Rival Links” Don’t Drive Enough CTRs To Rivals

Google EU flag Google's original antitrust settlement proposal, negotiated with the European Commission, was attacked by Google competitors and critics as being a token concession to competition. Anti-Google lobbying group FairSearch.org sponsored a consumer study that argued Google's presentation of three “rival links” to competitors in search results did little to drive traffic to competitors' websites. In September Google presented a second settlement proposal that made new or additional concessions. The second proposal was immediately attacked as well. Now a second FairSearch-sponsored research [...]


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