So as not to create confusion about what exactly is going on between Google, the European Union and Google’s friends at FairSearch.org here are the highlights of what appears to be going on with Google in its continuing battle with the EU and various ‘competitors’.
- For three years Google and its treatment of its search results have been under investigation by the EU or the European Commission (EC) (I get confused myself on this one so forgive me).
- FairSearch.org and its member companies have been after the EU to punish Google for claims of unfair trade practices which include charges of Google being a search monopoly
- A New York Ties headline from Saturday reads “Europeans Reach Deal With Google on Searches” while a Wall Street Journal from yesterday reads “Google Proposes Settlement Terms to EU Regulators“. You choose which one you would like to agree with but based on other reports it appears as if Google is offering a ‘solution’ that would avoid fines and prevent a monopolistic labeling of the company. This proposal is allowed to be reviewed by competitors once it is enacted. You can guess what they will say.
- The competition, without actually seeing anything has replied as reported by Bloomberg
Google, operator of the world’s largest Internet search engine, told the Brussels-based EU that it would create more distinction in searches between its own services and competitors, a person familiar with the negotiations said last week. Google also proposed to offer links to rival search engines, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the details of the offer aren’t public.
“If what has been proposed is labeling or a modified form of labeling, frankly that’s a non-starter,” said David Wood, a lawyer for Brussels-based industry group ICOMP, which includes Microsoft. “We haven’t seen the proposals and the commission hasn’t explained them to us. We’re in the dark.”
Yeah, you read that correctly. Nothing has been seen but it’s a non-starter. You can guess where this is heading can’t you?
The NYT reports that Google is playing nice
A Google spokesman, Al Verney, declined to comment beyond repeating Google’s statement that it continued “to work cooperatively with the European Commission.” Antoine Colombani, a commission spokesman, did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
There are many more elements but from how the competition is already responding it almost seems pointless to consider this being anywhere near a final agreement. With the process being what it is, which allows the competition to actually tell the EU if what they are proposing is OK rather than the EU taking the reigns and deciding it for everyone, this situation may be in a state of limbo for some time to come.
In the end, it appears that if the people of FairSearch and ICOMP want to keep Google in the courts (and actually in the news while making themselves look more and more like vindictive incompetents rather than actual business people) it may turn out to work in favor of Google. That’s an option, at least.
So get knee deep in the details if you want by reading many different takes including this one over at Search Engine Land. As it looks at this point there is more legal wrangling ahead and as long as the EU shows no spine there is likely to be not much true progress.
What are your thoughts on this? We have asked SO many times in the past but the question still begs an answer “Is Google creating an environment that is unfair to the competition OR are they simply better than the rest?”. Are the courts the best way to do business? Does this kind of activity on the part of a competitive collective put true innovation at risk or is it the right way to go about competing?
We would love to get your impressions.