As has been expected, this morning the European Commission announced it would issue formal requests for information (RFIs) on the revised commitments proposed by Google to “complainants in the ongoing proceedings and from all those who responded to the initial market test.” It has been suggested that some 125 RFIs have been sent out and the Commission is providing a month long review period to respondents.
Commenting on the development, David Wood, ICOMP Legal Counsel, Said:
“We will carefully review the revised proposals and provide our input to the Commission in due time. We all agree that we need to find the right solutions to Google’s abusive behaviour. However, at first glance, Google still doesn’t appear to have offered anything that will prevent it from systematically preferencing its own services and manipulating search results, which was widely recognised as a clear failure of the first offer. What is needed from Google is a principle-based forward-looking approach, including a clear commitment not to discriminate against its rivals.”
Having now had a brief opportunity to conduct an initial review of the revised proposal, and to compare against the previous package, it is disappointing to see that it does not appear to be a substantial improvement. Responses by concerned parties to Google’s initial proposals clearly showed wide-spread agreement that Google must commit to a policy of non-discrimination in order for any proposal to be considered meaningful – however this principle remains absent. The failure to address the cynical manipulation of search results is also a failure to address the conflict of interest at the heart of Google’s anti-competitive behaviour.
It will be very important to fully digest the details of the proposal, but as has been pointed out on a number of occasions, labelling an anti-trust violation does not remove the violation and the proposal that Google’s competitors should pay for the privilege of being considered a “rival link” may actually make matters worse.
ICOMP will make every effort to put together the expert views of its members on the proposed commitments and the specific questions raised by the Commission services. We note, however, that the RFIs give third parties significantly less time than Google was afforded. Moreover, the Commission has not so far published Google’s explanations as to how it expects the proposed remedies to work in practice, nor the supporting empirical data.
We remain committed to assisting the Commission reach the best resolution to protect competition and consumer welfare.