I have written a considerable amount before about how technology and the search industry is challenging the existing legal frameworks that are present around the world in new ways. This is due to the constant evolution of the industries involved as they change and adapt very quickly, but also it is largely all new. In many cases, never before have the existing laws, whether antitrust or other, been applied in these ways and thus, new interpretations of the laws need to be made. This does not impact the search marketing industry as much as it does the tech sector, but when dealing with Google, their activity and any changes to their operations, greatly impact the internet marketing and optimization for improved search results.
In light of Google's ongoing (18-month) antitrust investigations both in the US and EU, legal interpretations of this kind are being directly related to their case. Although some are calling Google's ethics into question, I lean towards the idea that Google is trying to stay within the law and work out how best to do so while staying the dominant player in search, considering the often cloudy landscape of internet operations and how rulings impact what they do.
As reported by various outlets and detailed specifically by Search Engine Watch, the European Commission (EC) has now sent to Google a list of four things they want them to address in order to end the ongoing investigation.
- General Search - The EC takes issue with the way Google shows links to its vertical search services in comparison to the way it links to its competitors' vertical services.
- Copied Content- There is concern that the copying of content from competitor websites for use "in their own offerings" could discourage these entities from creating this content.
- Additionally, there is worry regarding the agreements that Google has with its partners for paid search ads.
- Lastly, the EC wants Google to address the restrictions that Google places on moving the search ad campaigns for AdWords to other competitor platforms.
The Commission's perspective is that they are reaching out to Google and offering a way for them to rectify the issues that they see before any further legal action would be taken, essentially giving them a way out. This way out, however, includes Google changing their practices, something that is yet to be determined that they are willing to fully do. Reports are now saying that Google has responded asking for more specific detail regarding "precise" occurrences of the accusations, and that they would assess after receiving such information. A conclusion to this case is near, but still very much developing.