Ref. Ares(2018)2554324 - 16/05/2018
Ref. Ares(2018)2751838 - 28/05/2018
FairSearch Europe Secretariat
E: [adresse e-mail]
Academic / scientific research
Google’s third package of proposals differs only minimally from the second set of proposals which were
soundly condemned by Commissioner Almunia as failing to end Google’s anti-competitive practices and
restore competition to search. This means that most of the results of the expert studies testing the second
package remain valid and relevant to the third package. The overview below provides the main findings of
6 December 2013: Review of the likely effects of Google’s proposed Commitments, by Professors
David J. Franklyn and David A. Hyman
Online interactive surveys of 3,500 U.K. residents during November, 2013
Commissioned by FairSearch Europe
Similar to the findings of their expert study of 1 July 2013, Professors Hyman and Franklyn conclude that the
second set of Google’s proposed commitments will neither materially increase consumer attention, offer
consumers meaningful choices nor restore or improve competition in the vertical search markets. The study
demonstrates that it is both the size and the placement of a rival service on the search results page that
determines consumer click-thru rate. In more detail, the study finds that:
The three rival links are unlikely to attract significantly higher rates of consumer clicks
. While the
percentage of non-mobile clicks on rival links is modestly higher than the market test of Google’s
First Commitments (never more than 2%), that click through rates for rival links in the Second
Commitments continue to lag far behind click through rates for Google’s own vertical search results.
Google’s proposal sends up to 40 times more traffic to its own links than those of others.
The proposed rival link remedy is unstable
The observed slight increases in click-through rates on
rival links are easily eliminated with modest changes to the appearance of the search results page,
such as the addition of a banner-strip similar to the one recently introduced in the United States.
Consumer confusion persists as to the difference between Google’s specialised search results
and other search results
. The study finds high levels of consumer confusion as to the source and
type of search results and a low level of ability to correctly differentiate between paid and unpaid
results, or between Google’s vertical search and generic search results. In addition, the proposed
disclosure statement does not effectively communicate the necessary information, i.e. whether the
region in question is paid vs. unpaid, and the location and significance of the ‘rival links’. The
proposed language confused many respondents.
The study demonstrates also that
Parity of rival link presentation is easily attainable and would substantially increase consumer
clicks on rival sites
. Visually rich appearance is an important component in Google’s dominance.
Professors Hyman and Franklyn tested several variations to determine how difficult it would be to
present search results in a way that would substantially increase consumer attention and click-thru
rates on rival sites. The highest degree of rival link visibility and resulting consumer attention is found
when rival links are displayed in a manner that is comparable to the manner in which Google’s own
specialised search results are displayed. None of the Commitments achieve this objective.
November 2013 Price Comparison Surveys
November 2013: US Consumer Watchdog survey and complaint on higher prices that consumers
pay on Google
o Read Consumer Watchdog’s study here:
24 November Financial Times Analysis:
Google criticised as product listing adverts push up prices by
Richard Waters (San Francisco)
The US consumer organisation, Consumer Watchdog and the Financial Times have both carried out separate
and small surveys which indicate that consumers who rely on Google pay higher prices due to the way that
Google’s algorithm now operates thanks to Google Shopping.
Comparing the featured price of 14 items featured in Google Shopping, the consumer group found
that it was higher on Google in eight cases than the same item on a competing CSE like Nextag,
Shopzilla or Pricegrabber.
The Financial Times analysis found five out of every six items highlighted on a Google search were
more expensive than the same items from other merchants which were list way down in the Google
Shopping service. The FT
found an average premium of 34 percent.
21 October 2013: Attention and selection behaviour on "universal search" result pages based on
proposed Google commitments
Eye tracking pilot study with 35 test subjects conducted by the Institute of Communication and Media
Research (IKM) at the German Sports University Cologne (DSHS),
Commissioned by the Initiative for a Competitive Online Market Place (ICOMP)
The study illustrates an empirical approach regarding the distribution of attention and the selection behaviour
on Google "Universal Search" result pages. The main findings of the study are:
Google placed "Sponsored" Google-own page elements grab a pre-dominant amount of total visual
The “alternative search sites" even with small logos do not evoke enough visual attention to
stimulate users to click on them.
Map services cannot compete against Google because the Google Map pane and Google Images
thumbnails get visual attention of users more, earlier and longer than all other page elements.
Google Ads presented as lateral skyscraper-shaped link lists are vastly irrelevant for visual attention
as well as for mouse clicking behaviour.
The visual attention for organic links on the search engine result pages (SERPs) is negligible
compared to those Google elements placed above them, enhanced with pictures. With browser
windows not opened wide, organic links cannot be seen.
IV. March 2014: Settlement will Provide Google with significant Additional Revenue
Economic Study on the Impact by ETTSA
Based on publicly available sources
Focusing on the auction mechanism, this soon to be released study by ETTSA, representing the online travel
sector, is based on publicly available sources and demonstrates the inequities of this proposed settlement.
Under the auction mechanism, Google will select the three rivals to display their competing services based on
a combination of the level of their bid and expected click through rates, thus maximising the revenue Google
expects to make by displaying these ads. The auction winners will be those most able to pay, not the most
innovative SMEs and not those providing the cheapest or best products. Moreover, new entrants are
specifically excluded by the minimum traffic threshold.
So, in a sector like travel search, the remedy both fails to eliminate the abuse, but turns Google competitors
into additional revenue sources for the dominant company. To substantiate this claim, ETTSA shows that for
the top 20 travel sites alone Google will generate additional incremental revenue of up to 240 million
euros/dollars 330 million per year thanks to the auction mechanism. Extrapolating this amount to other
sectors (such as travel or car insurance or mortgages), Google will earn an additional revenue from these
proposed commitments that could easily reach €1 billion annually. By creating a new revenue stream for
Google, this settlement creates new abuses of dominance, and is thus worse than having no settlement at all.