European Commission Seeks Input on Google Commitments

The European Commission has sought public comment on
proposals Google has made to resolve the EC's ongoing concern the company has
used what EC says is its dominant position in search and search advertising.

The EC said that if they were satisfied with the commitment,
they might make them legally binding on Google.

Google has proposed that it:

  1. "label promoted links to its own specialized search
    services so that users can distinguish them from natural Web search results;
  2. "clearly separate these promoted links from other Web search results by
    clear graphical features (such as a frame), and display links to three rival
    specialized search services close to its own services, in a place that is
    clearly visible to users; 
  3. "offer all websites the option to opt-out from the use of all their
    content in Google's specialized search services, while ensuring that any
    opt-out does not unduly affect the ranking of those web sites in Google's
    general Web search results; 
  4. "offer all specialized search websites that focus on product search or
    local search the option to mark certain categories of information in such a way
    that such information is not indexed or used by Google;
  5. "provide newspaper publishers with a mechanism allowing them to control on
    a Web page per Web page basis the display of their content in Google News;
  6. "no longer include in its agreements with publishers any written or
    unwritten obligations that would require them to source online search
    advertisements exclusively from Google; and
  7. "no longer impose obligations that would prevent advertisers from managing
    search advertising campaigns across competing advertising platforms."

Google also anticipates that there would be an independent

The Federal Trade Commission in January closedits almost two-year investigation into the same issues, concluding that
Google's search rankings, on balance, were to improve consumer experience
rather than bias them anti-competitively in favor of Google content and that
Google's conduct did not violate American law. But Google also made pledges to
the FTC, which then chairman Jon Leibowitz said were legally enforceable
binding commitments.

By contrast, in March, the EC came to the preliminary
conclusion that various Google practices "may" violate antitrust
rules. Those included the favorable treatment of Google's own specialized
services in Web searches, the use without consent of original content from
third-party sites in those specialized services, and restrictions on being able
to transfer online search ad campaign to rivals.

The EC said those practices could "harm
consumers by reducing choice and stifling innovation in the fields of
specialized search services and online search advertising."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.