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EU regulators not satisfied by Google's proposed antitrust concessions

post #1 of 56
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The executive arm of the European Union has indicated that Google will need to do more in order to satisfy an ongoing antitrust case against the search giant.

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Google initially submitted its proposed concessions to the European Commission in April. That proposal included the possibility of placing search results for from competing search engines alongside its own results.

But European Competition Commission Joaquin Almunia said at a press conference on Wednesday that Google must make better proposals if it wishes to reach a deal with the commission, according to Reuters.

"I concluded that the proposals that Google sent us are not enough to overcome our concerns, Almunia said.

Google's initial proposals, which didn't go far enough, would also have the company clearly label search results from its own properties, such as Google News and Google Shopping. The company also offered to block as much as 10 percent of its Web content from displaying in Google's search results.

The EU was compelled to investigate whether Google was using its search dominance to promote its own services ahead of competitors. Rival Microsoft was one of the primary complainants, but smaller players such as travel site Expedia, social review site Yelp and British shopping comparison site Foundem also joined the calls for an investigation.

If Google cannot satisfy the EU, the company could face a fine of as much as $5 billion. No deadline has been set, but Almunia indicated he'd like to reach a resolution by the end of the year.

Apple has been working to lessen its reliance on Google since the company started pushing its own Android mobile operating system to compete with Apple's iPhone. Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs felt betrayed by Google.

Apple no longer uses Google Maps data for its native Maps application in iOS, and with this year's release of iOS 7, Microsoft's Bing will become the default search provider for voice-driven queries to its Siri personal assistant software.
post #2 of 56
Yay.

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post #3 of 56

Evil?  Irrelevant.  Business.

 
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post #4 of 56
But services are free, right? Free is always better for consumers. /s
post #5 of 56
It's not at all clear to me what the EU wants Google to adjust in it's search results. Are they suggesting that Google market for Microsoft in a Google Search? That Google change results to be less relevant to the user and instead include more results from other search providers "to be fair"?

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130111/07473421641/do-we-really-want-eu-bureaucrats-deciding-what-google-search-results-should-look-like.shtml
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post #6 of 56
Basically the EU is just a legalized protection racket out to get their pound of flesh. I really wish Google would just say "FU" and pull out of the EU altogether. Maybe if companies stop paying their extortion the EU will change its ways.

-kpluck

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post #7 of 56
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Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

It's not at all clear to me what the EU wants Google to adjust in it's search results. Are they suggesting that Google market for Microsoft in a Google Search? That Google change results to be less relevant to the user and instead include more results from other search providers "to be fair"?

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130111/07473421641/do-we-really-want-eu-bureaucrats-deciding-what-google-search-results-should-look-like.shtml

 

Seems pretty clear to me: they want to alleviate concerns that Google is using search results to skew consumer decisions towards other products and services which benefit them.  So prove that the logic used to generate search results is purely based on "relevancy to the user" and doesn't factor in things like "who uses Google for advertising".

 

But go ahead and deploy the army of commenters/bloggers/tweeters with the party line: the EU wants to dictate your search results.

 
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post #8 of 56
$5 billion fine? That's not even half of what they wasted buying a failing handset maker. A $50 billion fine would start to tickle their pain centers....

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post #9 of 56
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Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

$5 billion fine? That's not even half of what they wasted buying a failing handset maker. A $50 billion fine would start to tickle their pain centers....

No doubt, but they already have Google's attention since they're offering concessions. Do you understand what it is the EU doesn't like about what Google is offering to appease them, or what's wrong with the current search results?
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post #10 of 56
true
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Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

$5 billion fine? That's not even half of what they wasted buying a failing handset maker. A $50 billion fine would start to tickle their pain centers....
,

true but i think the hammer hitting the nail is being label as violating antitrust laws. having that over your head could bring a ton of unwanted government attention and possibly easier cases made against you.
post #11 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

Seems pretty clear to me: they want to alleviate concerns that Google is using search results to skew consumer decisions towards other products and services which benefit them.  

Since it's clear to you at least, what about Google's offered concessions to the EU doesn't address that? That's part of my confusion.
Edited by Gatorguy - 7/17/13 at 10:41am
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post #12 of 56
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Originally Posted by auxio View Post

Evil?  Irrelevant.  Business.

 

Business activity is just another form of human activity, so all the moral considerations that would apply to any human action apply equally to business actions, because corporations don't act, the people running them do. You don't get a pass on bad behavior just by labeling it "business".

post #13 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by kpluck View Post

Basically the EU is just a legalized protection racket out to get their pound of flesh. I really wish Google would just say "FU" and pull out of the EU altogether. Maybe if companies stop paying their extortion the EU will change its ways.

-kpluck

Xenophobic much?
Just what is it that the EU -working on the principle of fair competition, is doing that amounts to extortion?
Your(I presume) country, America, seems quite capable of irrational behaviour in trade disputes...DOJ for instance. Or is it that you are jealous that the EU made the same allegations against Microsoft as the American courts...but made it stick?
post #14 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

It's not at all clear to me what the EU wants Google to adjust in it's search results. Are they suggesting that Google market for Microsoft in a Google Search? That Google change results to be less relevant to the user and instead include more results from other search providers "to be fair"?

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130111/07473421641/do-we-really-want-eu-bureaucrats-deciding-what-google-search-results-should-look-like.shtml

 

No... They want Google to stop prioritizing their services over competitors in search results. It is not in the consumer's best interest to push their services over others, the search results should be based on hits and user ratings, not Google's self-serving needs. It's anti-competitive to build your service from being open and fair only to slowly enter other markets and slowly push out competitors after you've become the de facto standard. Microsoft did the exact same thing in the 90's.

Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #15 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by kpluck View Post

Basically the EU is just a legalized protection racket out to get their pound of flesh. I really wish Google would just say "FU" and pull out of the EU altogether. Maybe if companies stop paying their extortion the EU will change its ways.

-kpluck

You don't seem to know a whole lot about the EU...

 

The EU has much stronger privacy protection and consumer protection laws than the US, which is a good thing. You want to do business in the EU, you follow EU law. Very simple.

 

If some American company thinks that those laws do not apply to them, we will prove them wrong. Just like any other country would.

 

But I agree with you that Google should pull out of the EU. It would be a better place without them. They have been stealing our data, violating our laws and intruding on our lives for too long. I won't shed a tear over them!

post #16 of 56

Google persistently tries to be a monopoly and I abominate that. They deserved that antitrust case.

post #17 of 56
I don't like Google's business practices, and I personally think they're abusing the hell out of their market dominance in much the same way Microsoft did, long ago. A body with clout does need to make them amend their ways.

Having said which, the EU sometimes appears to cross into that magic territory where their actions are driven by the promise of getting sanction moneys more than it is a desire to see companies do right. Maybe they're really in it for the good of their constituents. Sometimes the plaintiffs are the ones being cynical too. Sometimes the compromises are entirely to enable them to put on a hurt expression and say, "Well, we tried. What more do they want?" even though the compromises they proposed were carefully designed to keep the most abusive behavior intact. Microsoft did that in its day, and no doubt many of the concessions Google offered were carefully tailored to impact their corporate advantages as little as possible. I guess it will all play out in the end.
post #18 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

 

No... They want Google to stop prioritizing their services over competitors in search results. It is not in the consumer's best interest to push their services over others, the search results should be based on hits and user ratings, not Google's self-serving needs. It's anti-competitive to build your service from being open and fair only to slowly enter other markets and slowly push out competitors after you've become the de facto standard. Microsoft did the exact same thing in the 90's.

 

Isn't part of the complaint also that Google is stealing information from other sites, like Yelp? Simply saying, "we stole this from yelp," next to the information doesn't do much good, since that's followed by an implied, "... so you don't need to visit their site. Now how 'bout you check out some of our stuff while you're here?"

 

Of course, I'm sure that GG knows all about this. He's just pretending with his questions that there isn't anything amiss here, which is probably how it was decided to handle the PR spin on this in their strategy meetings.

post #19 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

 

Business activity is just another form of human activity, so all the moral considerations that would apply to any human action apply equally to business actions, because corporations don't act, the people running them do. You don't get a pass on bad behavior just by labeling it "business".

 

I was making a joke in regard to the "don't be evil" mantra.  The concepts of good and evil are meaningless in the world of free market capitalism.  What's "evil" one day is a necessary practice to stay competitive the next.  Morality is also subjective based on what religion one practices (in this case, the religion of money).


Edited by auxio - 7/17/13 at 12:18pm
 
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post #20 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


Since it's clear to you at least, what about Google's offered concessions to the EU doesn't address that? That's part of my confusion.

 

Plenty of loopholes/workarounds.  Marking search results as being Google content still wouldn't address ranking Google-friendly products and services above others (subsidiaries, heavy advertisers, etc).  Plus it still doesn't change the result ordering (the single most important factor).

 
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post #21 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

It's not at all clear to me what the EU wants Google to adjust in it's search results. Are they suggesting that Google market for Microsoft in a Google Search? That Google change results to be less relevant to the user and instead include more results from other search providers "to be fair"?

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130111/07473421641/do-we-really-want-eu-bureaucrats-deciding-what-google-search-results-should-look-like.shtml

 

Isn't the issue regarding the fact that Google may be abusing it's near-monopolistic power in search to promote things like Google+ above competitors like Facebook.

 

If true, clearly this is concerning, and even if not (currently) true, the possibility of abuse is pretty high. I believe they're looking for a way to ensure that Google doesn't abuse it's search power. They must not feel Google's offer is good enough.

 

In my opinion, search is such a powerful tool that it needs some oversight to avoid conflicts of interest and abuse. Who watches the watchmen, you know? Search effectively controls access to information for most people, and Google's algorithms aren't transparent. If it were up to me, I'd say Google Search should be separated from Google Services.

post #22 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

 

I was making a joke in regard to the "don't be evil" mantra.  The concepts of good and evil are meaningless in the world of free market capitalism.  What's "evil" one day is a necessary practice to stay competitive the next.  Morality is also subjective based on what religion one practices (in this case, the religion of money).

 

That's a dangerous view of morals. Beyond religion, most cultures have basic moral codes, such as condemning murder, stealing, etc. 

 

Justifying everything as "morals are subjective" strikes me as sociopathic. 

 

I know your point was an action taken by a business may be viewed as evil by some, and fine by others. But labeling all morals as subjective is a dangerous path.

post #23 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post

Isn't the issue regarding the fact that Google may be abusing it's near-monopolistic power in search to promote things like Google+ above competitors like Facebook.

If true, clearly this is concerning, and even if not (currently) true, the possibility of abuse is pretty high. I believe they're looking for a way to ensure that Google doesn't abuse it's search power. They must not feel Google's offer is good enough.

In my opinion, search is such a powerful tool that it needs some oversight to avoid conflicts of interest and abuse. Who watches the watchmen, you know? Search effectively controls access to information for most people, and Google's algorithms aren't transparent. If it were up to me, I'd say Google Search should be separated from Google Services.

Google offered to clearly label results that are sponsored, as well as their own promoted services, using different colors and font weights than the other search results. They also said they would offer links to competing services. Since it's not consumers complaining about the search results but instead Microsoft for the most part with Google even offering to list Bing results too, I don't see what the real issue is.

EDIT: According to this article Mr. Almunia got Google to agree to "label those (Google services) results more clearly to show where they come from, while also giving more prominence to links to rival search engines.
It offers third-party websites an easier opt-out from being used in Google services, such as news searches. Google would also no longer include clauses in its agreements requiring exclusivity in online search nor prevent the same campaign being run on other platforms." I wonder if/when the tables are turned if MS would be willing to promote Google services for them.
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e52fd8d0-ad9b-11e2-a2c7-00144feabdc0.html
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post #24 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post

That's a dangerous view of morals. Beyond religion, most cultures have basic moral codes, such as condemning murder, stealing, etc. 

Justifying everything as "morals are subjective" strikes me as sociopathic. 

I know your point was an action taken by a business may be viewed as evil by some, and fine by others. But labeling all morals as subjective is a dangerous path.

Yeah, "subjective morals" is probably a misleading term; it is more accurate to say moral judgments applied to actions are subjective. For example: historically, evil people don't go around calling themselves "evil." They believe they are doing the right thing. And they're not saying that to away others: they actually believe it. Just listen to any terrorist argue their moral justification for acts of mass murder. Their judgment is subjective, not the underlying morals.

Sorry to get off topic.

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post #25 of 56
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Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

No doubt, but they already have Google's attention since they're offering concessions. Do you understand what it is the EU doesn't like about what Google is offering to appease them, or what's wrong with the current search results?

At the moment, no, not with enough details to offer an intelligent answer. I'll look into it later.

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post #26 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post

 

That's a dangerous view of morals. Beyond religion, most cultures have basic moral codes, such as condemning murder, stealing, etc. 

 

Justifying everything as "morals are subjective" strikes me as sociopathic. 

 

I know your point was an action taken by a business may be viewed as evil by some, and fine by others. But labeling all morals as subjective is a dangerous path.

 

Taking it way too far.  I was discussing morals as they relate to business practices, which generally doesn't include murder unless we're talking about organized crime (which certainly isn't legitimate business), and are mostly in the subjective/grey area of morality.  I'd argue that humanitarianism and altruism are more applicable than morality/good/evil when it comes to guiding business practices.


Edited by auxio - 7/17/13 at 2:05pm
 
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post #27 of 56
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Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post


Yeah, "subjective morals" is probably a misleading term; it is more accurate to say moral judgments applied to actions are subjective. For example: historically, evil people don't go around calling themselves "evil." They believe they are doing the right thing. And they're not saying that to away others: they actually believe it. Just listen to any terrorist argue their moral justification for acts of mass murder. Their judgment is subjective, not the underlying morals.

 

And people of faith who are leaders in corporations which exploit poor labour conditions in developing nations also somehow justify their actions as morally acceptable.  Which is why I don't consider morality to be all that relevant in the world of business.

 
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post #28 of 56
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Originally Posted by auxio View Post

Seems pretty clear to me: they want to alleviate concerns that Google is using search results to skew consumer decisions towards other products and services which benefit them.  So prove that the logic used to generate search results is purely based on "relevancy to the user" and doesn't factor in things like "who uses Google for advertising".

But go ahead and deploy the army of commenters/bloggers/tweeters with the party line: the EU wants to dictate your search results.

That's been going on forever. If a business wanted to stand out it paid for a big listing in the yellow pages. They were given out free, so what's really the difference?
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post #29 of 56
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Originally Posted by notstayinglong View Post

Regardless of your feelings towards Google, are you really that opposed to the free market that you find reason to rejoice in another example of the EU's leftists, protectionist, anti-business practices? You realize they are also going after Apple, right?

Moron.

Careful, talk like that will get you banned like I was.
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post #30 of 56
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Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

That's been going on forever. If a business wanted to stand out it paid for a big listing in the yellow pages. They were given out free, so what's really the difference?

When Google uses its power to promote its own services, then there's a difference.
post #31 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Google offered to clearly label results that are sponsored, as well as their own promoted services, using different colors and font weights than the other search results. They also said they would offer links to competing services. Since it's not consumers complaining about the search results but instead Microsoft for the most part with Google even offering to list Bing results too, I don't see what the real issue is.

EDIT: According to this article Mr. Almunia got Google to agree to "label those (Google services) results more clearly to show where they come from, while also giving more prominence to links to rival search engines.
It offers third-party websites an easier opt-out from being used in Google services, such as news searches. Google would also no longer include clauses in its agreements requiring exclusivity in online search nor prevent the same campaign being run on other platforms." I wonder if/when the tables are turned if MS would be willing to promote Google services for them.
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e52fd8d0-ad9b-11e2-a2c7-00144feabdc0.html

Your emphasizing that consumers aren't complaining is irrelevant. The danger of a search company's ability to manage, manipulate, and control how and what information is present combined with offering services that benefit from high search rankings is obvious, and something consumers might not be aware of (if done properly).
post #32 of 56
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Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post

When Google uses its power to promote its own services, then there's a difference.

Last I checked every telco promoted it's own services in the yellow pages.
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post #33 of 56
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Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


That's been going on forever. If a business wanted to stand out it paid for a big listing in the yellow pages. They were given out free, so what's really the difference?

 

Huge difference.  In the case of the Yellow Pages, it was solely in the business of providing listings.  It's not also in the business of say, plumbing repairs, and using it's dominance in the listing business to influence which plumbing repair company you choose by listing it's own plumbing subsidiaries first.

 

In the case of Google, it's in the business of internet search, but also in the business of news, shopping, advertising, etc.  And it's using it's dominance in search to influence people's decisions in the other businesses they're in (by ranking relevant search results at the top).

 

Google has always had it so that, if you bought advertising from them, you'd get your company shown in a special box alongside the regular search results (clearly marked as sponsored).  However, the search results themselves were always solely based on relevancy to the search criteria.  Now, the concern is that the results themselves are being biased to direct you to Google-owned (or friendly) content.


Edited by auxio - 7/17/13 at 3:31pm
 
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post #34 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

Huge difference.  In the case of the Yellow Pages, it was solely in the business of providing listings.  It's not also in the business of say, plumbing repairs, and using it's dominance in the listing business to influence which plumbing repair company you choose by listing it's own plumbing subsidiaries first.

In the case of Google, it's in the business of internet search, but also in the business of news, shopping, advertising, etc.  And it's using it's dominance in search to influence people's decisions in the other businesses they're in (by ranking relevant search results at the top).  That's the very definition of antitrust.

Google has always had it so that, if you bought advertising from them, you'd get your company shown in a special box alongside the regular search results (clearly marked as sponsored).  However, the search results themselves were always solely based on relevancy to the search criteria.  Now, the concern is that the results themselves are being biased to direct you to Google-owned (or friendly) content.

Since when has Google been in plumbing?
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post #35 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

 

I was making a joke in regard to the "don't be evil" mantra.  The concepts of good and evil are meaningless in the world of free market capitalism.  What's "evil" one day is a necessary practice to stay competitive the next.  Morality is also subjective based on what religion one practices (in this case, the religion of money).

 

I disagree with you on all points.

post #36 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

 

And people of faith who are leaders in corporations which exploit poor labour conditions in developing nations also somehow justify their actions as morally acceptable.  Which is why I don't consider morality to be all that relevant in the world of business.

 

It's relevant, they are just hypocrites, like Google.

post #37 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

Since when has Google been in plumbing?

You haven't seen the sh1t they've pulled out?
post #38 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

Since when has Google been in plumbing?

Don't be obtuse, it was clear what he was referring to. Google offering a social networking service in competition with Facebook is akin to the Yellow Pages operating a plumbing service in competition with Roto Rooter. In both cases, there'd be a conflict of interest, and it would be wrong if either used their control of the results to promote their own services in a less than transparent way.
post #39 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post

Don't be obtuse, it was clear what he was referring to. Google offering a social networking service in competition with Facebook is akin to the Yellow Pages operating a plumbing service in competition with Roto Rooter. In both cases, there'd be a conflict of interest, and it would be wrong if either used their control of the results to promote their own services in a less than transparent way.

The OP used a bad example but even with the yellow pages there were always companies that competed with some of the services that the telcos did, and the telcos always promoted their services prominently in the first few pages while their competition was way back under T.
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post #40 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

The OP used a bad example but even with the yellow pages there were always companies that competed with some of the services that the telcos did, and the telcos always promoted their services prominently in the first few pages while their competition was way back under T.

Did anyone of them basically control the market?

Did they clearly identify that try we're advertising their own products?

Did their advertisements look like ads or regular listings?

Considering listings are typically alphabetical, it would be hard for them to secretly manipulate the listings. Not so with Google.
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