Bloomberg News

Google Rival Foundem Seeks Disclosures to Users in EU Deal

September 03, 2012

An Internet company that filed a European Union antitrust complaint against Google Inc. (GOOG:US) said the company should tell users when it inserts its own products into search results as part of any settlement with antitrust regulators.

Foundem, a U.K. shopping comparison website that asked the EU to investigate after its ranking fell in Google search results, also said in a document outlining its proposals that the search engine should refrain from highlighting its own services or penalizing rivals’ rankings. Foundem also said an oversight panel should adjudicate disputes over the rankings.

“Google must be able to justify its actions when challenged, allowing the technical oversight panel to determine, for example, which penalties can be considered legitimate and which cannot,” Foundem said.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, is negotiating with EU regulators over a possible settlement of the antitrust probe. It is under growing pressure from global regulators probing whether the company is thwarting competition in the market for Web searches. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and antitrust agencies in Argentina and South Korea are also scrutinizing the company.

Under Foundem’s proposals, the oversight panel would be the final port of call for any complaints that Google artificially moves some websites down in the search rankings. Foundem suggests that sites that are bumped down should be informed why and given the chance to appeal against Google’s decision, it said.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, said the company was working with the European Commission and has made a proposal to address the potential concerns of regulators.

Foundem was one of several companies, including Microsoft (MSFT:US) Corp. that complained to the EU about Google, prompting the antitrust probe.

While Microsoft and partner Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO:US) have about a quarter of the U.S. Web-search market, Google has almost 95 percent of the traffic in Europe, Microsoft said in a blog post last year, citing data from regulators.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.


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