Brussels (Brussels Morning) Google rivals DuckDuckGo and four of its peers have called on the Executive Vice President of the EC for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age Margrethe Vestager to set up a meeting with Google, Reuters reported yesterday, Tuesday.
After Vestager fined Google Euros 4.34 billion for blocking rivals on Android smartphones and notebooks last year, the tech giant introduced quarterly auctions where rivals can compete to be the default search engine on Android devices in the EU. However, Google’s rivals have criticised the auction model in an open letter to Vestager, warning that Google might not be presenting her with complete or accurate information.
In the letter, they called on Vestager to organize a trilateral meeting with Google with the aim of finding a solution that all sides can accept. DuckDuckGo warned that the auction system encourages user exploitation, claiming that bidders who sacrifice user privacy to generate more profit can afford to bid higher.
The US Department of Justice decided to sue Google for abusing its dominant position on search and advertising markets, a move welcomed by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), AP reported last week. BEUC hoped that the US authorities had paid attention to what it cited as two major drawbacks of investigations in the EU — drawn-out processes and Google’s predilection to use any loophole to avoid changing its business model.
While Vestager has slapped Google with fines in three separate competition cases, she has acknowledged that financial penalties have done little to change Google’s behaviour. With this in mind, EU officials are preparing new rules to rein in tech giants. Last month, Vestager said the new rules would apply to a small number of large gatekeepers, requiring them to provide some data to rivals and prohibiting companies from directing users to their own services or products.
The lawsuit filed last week indicates that US officials are not aiming for fines, which Google can afford, but are instead pursuing significant changes that could even include breaking up the company. Because the EU’s drawn out processes and lengthy investigations have allowed Google time to find ways to maintain its dominance, the EU Commission has resorted to using temporary measures as a quick response to anti-competitive behaviour.