130 tech companies sign open letter to EU calling for tougher Google stance

12 Nov 2020

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Business leaders in Ireland are among the signatories of a letter calling on the EU to enforce a 2017 ruling on Google’s search practices.

130 tech companies and 28 industry associations have signed an open letter addressed to the EU’s executive vice-president and commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager. The group is calling on the EU to enforce its 2017 ruling regarding Google’s search engine practices.

Among the signatories are senior figures from four businesses based in Ireland: Orla Moran, general manager of IrishJobs.ie; Christopher Paye, general manager of Jobs.ie; Sam McIlveen, general manager of NIJobs.com; and Luther Lowe, senior VP of public policy at Yelp Ireland.

In 2017, Google was fined a then-record figure of €2.4bn for allegedly positioning its own shopping comparison services at the top of search results, while demoting those of rivals. The search giant was given 90 days to end its anticompetitive practices or face a further fine of up to 5pc of the average daily global earning of its parent company, Alphabet.

However, in the letter, the signatories said the decision “did not lead to Google changing anything meaningful”. They added that Turkey’s competition authority rejected the notion that the EU’s action against Google was able to re-establish competition. Google was told earlier this year to remove shopping ads from search results in Turkey.

Strong accusations

“In Europe, even three years after the decision, Google is still not complying by either ceasing the displaying of shopping units (as is now the case in Turkey) or allowing all competing services to serve equivalent boxes, if Google believes that such boxes are in the user’s interest,” they wrote.

“Google has also not stopped any favouring of its other specialised search services. Google has even started to engage in similar conduct in new markets.”

While welcoming efforts to regulate dominant search engines, the group said: “Many of us may not have the strength and resources to wait until such regulation really takes effect.

The industry figures urged the EU “to enforce Google’s compliance with the Google Search (shopping) decision and to take all necessary measures to stop the favouring and provision of other Google services within its general search results pages”.

In response to the open letter, a Google spokesperson said: “People expect Google to give them the most relevant, high-quality search results that they can trust.

“They do not expect us to preference specific companies or commercial rivals over others, or to stop launching helpful services which create more choice and competition for Europeans.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic