Google’s commitments: too little, too late?

Following weeks of speculation, we are pleased to see the publication of a market test noticeand look forward to the opportunity to analyse and respond to Google’s proposal in a constructive manner. It is vital to ensure that the market test is thorough and robust and is not simply an exercise to “tick the boxes”.

As we have repeatedly said, it is very important to provide complainants and interested parties with the opportunity to review the proposals and offer their observations, including evidence to show how the proposals will play out in practice. Google has had some time to test the proposals and how they might affect user clicks. We believe complainants and others also have an important role to play not least because of the sectoral expertise they offer. However, they must be provided with enough information and time to make the detailed analysis that is required.

If the proposals don’t clearly set out non-discrimination principles and the means to deal with the restoration of effective competition, plus effective enforcement and compliance, it’s very difficult to see how they can be satisfactory. Commissioner Almunia has himself stated that returning competition to markets effectively destroyed by Google’s dominance and abuse of that position is the main aim of this investigation.

We will comment further once we have had an opportunity to evaluate the proposals in more detail but it is clear that mere labelling is not any kind of solution to the competition concerns that have been identified. Google should implement the same ranking policy to all websites. This should include their own vertical services which currently have their ranking unfairly manipulated to appear at or near the top of search results.