Has Google become too powerful?

The search giant is working to ease some of the EC's competition concerns, but rivals are unsatisfied. By David Benady.

Google continues to come under pressure from critics who accuse the tech giant of misusing its market dominance to the detriment of rivals.

The European Commission has been investigating claims of market abuse for four years. A consortium of competing companies including Microsoft and Expedia formed the FairSearch.org group to argue that their interests had been damaged by Google’s practices.

In a new twist, the News Corp chief executive, Robert Thomson, wrote to the EC Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, last month attacking Google for undermining content creators.

One of Thomson’s criticisms was that Google is taking unfair advantage of its ability to sell advertising that targets specific audiences at discounted rates. "For example, access to 75 per cent of the Wall Street Journal demographic at 25 per cent of the price, thus undermining the business model of the content creator," he wrote.

In February, the EC tentatively accepted Google’s offer to remedy four areas of concern. First, the company offered to tone down the promotion of its own hotel, restaurant and flight searches so other services such as Expedia would stand a bigger chance of being seen in search results. Second, competitors would be allowed to opt out of letting Google use their content, such as reviews, on its pages. Third, it offered to terminate exclusivity agreements with publishers. Finally, it said it would allow advertisers to use their search ad campaigns across other search platforms such as Microsoft’s Bing.

It is unclear whether these commitments will be enough for the EC, which is still considering the case.

Google believes its suggested remedies are sufficient to allay concerns. In addition, it has dismissed Thomson’s criticisms as unfounded and largely factually incorrect.

Many believe the innovation Google brings to the internet mitigates competition concerns. After all, would the web work quite as effectively without the brainpower and creativity that Google brings?

We asked those in the digital industry if they believe Google has become too dominant in the market.

Scroll down to give your opinion in our poll...

 

YES Caspar Schlickum, chief executive, EMEA, Xaxis

"The strength of Google’s market share in search enables it to enter other markets extremely aggressively. Its hybrid role in technology and media makes it far from independent, despite its attempts to portray itself as such."

 

MAYBE Paul Doleman, UK chief executive, iCrossing

"By changing an algorithm with little or no warning, Google has the power to make or break businesses. However, it provides free tools, from Maps to Docs, and search helps us find the things we want. I feel the pros outweigh the cons."

 

MAYBE Dipesh Pattni, head of SEO, PHD

"Google is too powerful when it comes to its market share over search engines. This gives it too much data about users. On the other hand, it has worked hard to eradicate spam (bad content) and create a better user experience."

 

NO Paul Mead, founder and managing director, VCCP Media

"Google has achieved its position by doing things better than the competition. Yes, we need processes to ensure a market position isn’t unfairly abused, but market forces, not governments or quangos, should dictate who wins."

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