Reject Google's 'ineffective' antitrust fixes, plead Europe's publishers

A group of hundreds of Europe's publishing houses have asked the European Commission to throw out Google's suggested antitrust remedies, saying they're beyond all hope of repair.
Written by Jo Best on

A group of publishers from across Europe have banded together to ask the European Commission to reject Google's proposed antitrust remedies.

After launching an investigation back in 2010, the EC said last March it had concerns that Google could be abusing its dominant position in search in Europe. In April, Google proposed a number of changes to how it delivers its search results in order to help ease those worries.

The proposals were then subject to a "market test", where individuals and businesses are invited to give their opinions on whether the remedies go far enough. According to an open letter to the EC's trade VP, Joaquin Almunia, hundreds of publishers think they don't.

The letter, published on Tuesday and signed by publishers from a number of countries across Europe, calls on Almunia to "outright reject" Google's remedies.

"Google's proposals are clearly ineffective and it is difficult to see how they could be improved to a point at which they suffice to end search manipulation and content theft and restore competition," the letter says.

Among the proposals drawing publishers' ire is Google's plan to label links to its own services. Such a move "will mislead consumers into thinking these were somehow tailor made results to their search queries and interests, thereby causing even greater harm to competition", the letter says.

"Google will also provide website operators with the option to block their websites from access by Google, which is no option at all for publishers given Google is now superdominant and the de-facto gateway to the internet. Press publishers' concerns are increased by the fact that queries entered by European users on Google.com, Google Chrome, Voice Search, or Google search engines integrated on other sites are excluded from the proposed remedies," it says.

The European Magazine Media Association, European Newspaper Publishers' Association, European Publishers Council and Online Publishers Association Europe are among those who signed the letter.

The publishers have also sent Almunia a wishlist of what they consider to more appropriate remedies, including subjecting all sites and services, including Google's own, to the same treatment at the hands of its crawlers and algorithms, and not using publishers' content without their consent, apart from for navigation purposes.

Thursday is the last day that interested parties can submit their opinions on the proposed remedies.

The EC will use the results of the market test to decide whether to make Google put all its suggested measures into practice, or whether further sanctions, which can include a fine of up to 10 percent of a company's annual turnover, are needed.


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