European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said on Wednesday (27 September) that the institution would “actively monitor” a set of remedies proposed by Google to open up its shopping service to competitors as from tomorrow.
Google will have to submit a report to inform the Commission about how they are implementing the decision. The first report is due early next year, and the company will continue producing reports for a period of five years.
The Danish Commissioner did not confirm whether she was happy with the solutions proposed by the ‘tech’ giant.
“I have learnt not to let my happiness depend on site design, and I think I should keep it that way,” she told reporters.
Instead, she insisted on the importance of Google fully applying the remedies communicated to the EU executive last month.
“It is for Google to show that they will do it, and we will monitor it actively,” the commissioner said.
The EU executive accused Google last June of abusing its dominant position by giving “illegal advantage” to its comparison web service (Google Shopping) in search results.
The company has to pay a €2.42bn fine and it was obliged to correct the abuse by 28 September.
As a remedy, Google will auction the boxes on top of the page of search results, with no slots reserved for Google Shopping.
The firm believes that this system addresses the Commission’s main concern: ensuring the principle of equal treatment with other price comparison websites.
In order to guarantee that the system does not privilege Google Shopping again, the Commission hired in recent days external consultancy firms KPMG and Mavens, given their expertise on data and web search results.
“It is important for us to have very good people on board to help us with the monitoring,” Vestager explained.
She also stressed the importance of how rival companies would see the remedies over the coming months in order to give her blessing to Google’s solutions.
“It is important to take very seriously how market participants look at this,” she told reporters.
But the US firm played down the views of the complainants, as long as the principle of equal treatment is fully respected.
Some of the complainants are not satisfied with the proposed solution, and they are ready to boycott Google’s new action for its search results.
Despite the fact that there are more than 200 price comparison websites, only around a dozen expressed their willingness to bid for the slots offered by Google.
The company received “mixed feedback” when it approached other shopping websites.
“We are giving comparison shopping services the same opportunity to show shopping ads from merchants on Google’s Search results pages as we give to Google Shopping,” a Google spokesperson said.
“Google Shopping will compete on equal terms and will operate as if it were a separate business, participating in the auction in the same way as everyone else,” the spokesperson added.
In order to guarantee that Google Shopping does not have privilege access to the slots over rival comparison services, Google will set up the service as an independent unit, isolated from other teams.
The new Google Shopping unit must be financially sustainable independently from the parent company.
The remedy would not directly address another concern raised by the Commission: the demotion of rival comparison shopping services in its search results as a result of criteria introduced in its algorithm.
The executive said back in June that highly ranked rival services appeared on average only on page four.
The company insisted that the remedy proposed would guarantee equal treatment which was the primary concern of the EU authorities, and ruled out any modification to the algorithm.
Vestager did not clarify whether she would expect specific corrections to the algorithm, but insisted on addressing the misuse of Google’s dominant position and upholding the principle of equal treatment.
The Commission still has two other cases open against Google. The most important one refers to Android, its operating system for smartphones. The other case concerns AdSense, the service to place advertisements on Google’s search results pages or on third pages.