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 [...]


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 [...]


The Test Begins: Do Google Shopping & Other Shopping Search Engines Give You The Best Deals?

google-shopping-products-featured It sounds pretty damning. Two recent surveys suggest that Google Shopping isn't leading searchers to the best prices on products. But the surveys weren't well documented, nor did they include competitors like Bing, Shopzilla, PriceGrabber and Nextag, which have similar issues. So, Search Engine Land will be running its own fully documented tests. Every few days, we'll search for an item and show what we found, starting with today's test, a search for a toaster. Testing For The Low Price Vs. Featured Price This is a long story. It's designed to be that way so that people can understand ex [...]


Dear Google Rivals: Do These New Proposals Solve Your Antitrust Concerns? Love, The EU

google-eu-featured Three years into its investigation of Google over antitrust issues relating to search, the European Union took another step closer toward a likely resolution, asking Google rivals and other third-parties to review a settlement proposal. Notably, the general public wasn't invited to participate. The news comes via several reports today. The European Union's Competition agency posted nothing on its website, though the move follows on what it promised to do earlier this month. The Wall Street Journal and Reuters say that 125 companies have been asked to comment on the latest proposal, in [...]


New Google Antitrust Offer A “Significant Improvement” Says EU

Google Europe After Google's competitors loudly complained about the company's antitrust settlement proposal, which displayed three "rival links" to alternative' search results, European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said it would take new "concessions" for Google to successfully settle its antitrust case with Europe. Google has now reportedly made those concessions. Almunia characterized Google's updated settlement offer, submitted last month, as a "significant improvement." According to a Reuters report, "Almunia told lawmakers in the European Parliament he believed the new offer made i [...]


Could You Walk In Google’s Shoes? Making Tough Calls With Search Listings

It's pretty easy to sit back and slam Google for how you think it should make decisions when it comes to search listings. It's much harder to actually make those decisions, when you have a deeper understanding of all the implications involved. To experience this better, here's a chance to put yourself in Google's shoes and make some of the tough decisions. Below is a video from a special session we did at our SMX West search marketing conference earlier this year. Patrick Thomas, Google's search policy specialist and Matt Cutts, the head of Google's web spam fighting team, suggested a v [...]


With Amazing Chutzpah Google Claims It Can’t Be Sued In UK Courts

Google legal Last year Google was embroiled in controversy over its circumvention of the Safari browser's cookie-privacy settings (on the iPhone and beyond). As a result the company paid a $22.5 million fine to settle the case with the US FTC approximately a year ago. The FTC summarizes the facts that lead to the settlement: [F]or several months in 2011 and 2012, Google placed a certain advertising tracking cookie on the computers of Safari users who visited sites within Google’s DoubleClick advertising network, although Google had previously told these users they would automatically be opted out of [...]


Revealed: The 17 Other Search Engines The FTC Warned Over Paid Ad Disclosures

ftc-featured In June, the US Federal Trade Commission warned seven "general purpose" search engines -- including Google, Bing and Yahoo -- about the need to ensure they were properly disclosing paid ads. But 17 other "specialty" search engines were also warned. Which ones? The FTC wouldn't say. Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, Search Engine Land can now reveal the names. Our story from June -- FTC Updates Search Engine Ad Disclosure Guidelines After “Decline In Compliance” -- explains the warnings that were sent in more detail. At the time, the FTC said that AOL, Ask, Bing, Blek [...]


FTC Updates Search Engine Ad Disclosure Guidelines After “Decline In Compliance”

ftc-building-featured In 2002, the US Federal Trade Commission issued landmark guidelines to search engines, to ensure they were make a clear distinction between their paid and unpaid listings. Now, the FTC has updated those guidelines, saying it has seen a "decline in compliance" since they were first issued. The FTC posted the news today on its site, along with letters that were sent to over 20 general-purpose and specialty search engines. The move comes just over a year since I wrote to the FTC noting that there were several compliance issues I was seeing with search engines and its guidelines. In part [...]


Google To State AG’s: We’ve Blocked Over 3 Million Bad Ads From “Rogue Online Pharmacies”

google-cop-police-featured As part of its response to a potential subpoena by the Mississippi attorney general and accusations from The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) earlier this month that Google facilitates the sale of drugs without a prescription, among other illegal transactions,  Google legal director, Adam Barea, says the company has blocked or removed from its systems more than 3 million ads by suspected "rogue pharmacies" in the last two years.   The current complaints from the State Attorneys General focus primarily on Google allowing illegal sites to show in the organic search result [...]


Mississippi Attorney General To Subpoena Google For Illegal Sale Of Prescription Drugs

google-legal-law-featured Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood will subpoena Google records and emails to determine if Google facilitated the sale of drugs without a prescription and other illegal products, including counterfeit copies of movies, games and music. "Google is aiding and abetting criminal activity and putting consumers at risk," says Hood, "This is of grave concern to the chief law enforcement officers of this nation." The attorney general heads an intellectual property section of the National Association of Attorneys General and is urging other attorney generals to follow his lead. According to a [...]


State AGs: Google Still Allows & Profits From Illegal Drug Ads

Google legal The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is accusing Google of continuing to give consumers access to illegal and counterfeit goods -- including drugs -- in its search results, and is allowing sites that deal in such goods to advertise with Google. NAAG has asked Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page to discuss its concerns at a national meeting of state attorneys general that's happening June 17-19 in Boston. There's no formal statement that I can find on the NAAG website, but both USA Today and the Mississippi Business Journal are quoting that state's AG, Jim Hood, co-chair [...]


EU Says More Google “Concessions” Needed Before Antitrust Settlement

google-eu-featured The vigorous lobbying efforts of Google critics FairSearch.org and Foundem's SearchNeutrality.org seem to be paying off. Earlier today EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told members of the European Parliament that additional "concessions" would probably be required of Google to settle the antitrust investigation against the company and avoid litigation and potential financial penalties. According to Reuters, Almunia said the following: After [all the settlement proposal feedback is received] we will analyze the responses we have received, we will ask Google, probably, I cannot an [...]


German “Ancillary Copyright” Law To Go Into Effect, Imposes Limits On Search Results

Google legal According to a report from IDG News, a "toned down" version of an earlier, more restrictive "ancillary copyright" law has been published in Germany and will go into effect in August. The ”ancillary copyright” rule was proposed in August of 2012. In its initial form it would have required Google and others that indexed or aggregated news to pay for links or excerpts from those news items -- essentially a "link tax." The law was pushed by German magazine and newspaper publishers that see the Internet and Google, in particular, as the cause of many of their subscription, readership and [...]


Wired Revisits Story Of Federal Sting & $500M Penalty Over Google’s Pharmacy Ads

Wired is telling the story of David Whitaker, a federal prisoner that helped the U.S. government catch Google breaking the law by allowing and helping foreign pharmacies sell drugs via Google AdWords. It's a story you may have heard before; the Wall Street Journal did a similar exposé on Whitaker and the federal sting operation in early 2012. Wired tells how Whitaker used a pseudonym and convinced Google AdWords reps to help him tweak his pharmacy websites so that they'd be approved for AdWords. To prove that Google's behavior was widespread, Whitaker went through a different rep—one [...]


Google Wins Vertical Search Antitrust Case In Germany

google-legal-cash-featured In a German case that could have broader antitrust implications in Europe, Google defeated a petition for an injunction brought by a German online weather trade group, Verband Deutscher Wetterdienstleister. The case is interesting because it involves a private antitrust action against Google and directly addresses the "search bias" argument made by Google critics. The case and petition for injunction against Google were brought on behalf of third party publishers by the weather association. I obtained an English translation of the German court's opinion. The translation is a bit awkward [...]


Governments Across The Globe Are Making More Requests To Remove Content From Google Services

google-transparency-report According to a new Transparency Report released today, Google received 4,096 government requests to remove 42,249 pieces of content during 2012. The purpose of Google's Transparency Reports is to record the number of worldwide government requests to censor content on Google services, and offer insight into the amount of censorship happening across the globe. The latest report demonstrates an uptick in the number of requests to remove political content, as well as the number of areas where the requests originate. According to Google's announcement, "In this particular time period, we [...]


Google’s New European “Antitrust” Search Results: Here’s What They’ll Look Like

EU Flag I've found documents associated with the Google-EU settlement proposal that offer mock-ups of how the new, regulated SERPs will look. It's very interesting and greatly clarifies the settlement terms and how they will be implemented practically. These mockups look quite different (and less "disruptive") than what I imagined. There are three basic scenarios: where Google sees direct monetization from the SERP, indirect monetization in the vertical or no monetization (e.g., News in Europe). In each case the presentation and the rules will be slightly different. The screens below are all mock- [...]


EU Goes Public With Google Antitrust Proposals, “Market Test” FAQs

google-eu-featured The EU released documents this morning that detail Google's antitrust settlement proposals and explain the Competition Commission's position on various aspects of the investigation. First here's what the EU says Google has proposed: Google offers for a period of 5 years to: (i) - label promoted links to its own specialised search services so that users can distinguish them from natural web search results, - clearly separate these promoted links from other web search results by clear graphical features (such as a frame), and - display links to three rival specialised search services c [...]


Is Google’s Antitrust Settlement Offer To Europe Dead On Arrival?

google-eu-featured The European Union has "accepted" Google's formal antitrust settlement proposal -- subject to "market testing." As a practical matter, that means EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia is circulating it among Google's critics and competitors for reaction. However, there has already been plenty of (negative) reaction based on the information that came out last week in news reports. That leads to the question: is Google's settlement proposal dead on arrival? And if so, what will Almunia and the Europeans do? Is litigation inevitable? The issue that Google's competitors and critics ca [...]


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