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FairSearch Statement: Google’s flawed proposal

June 2021

  • After three years, Google is proposing changes to its choice screen for search on Android devices. But only for new users.
  • We have long argued these changes are necessary, and new Android users will benefit. FairSearch welcomes this gesture.
  • The problem is that the many millions of existing Android users in Europe win nothing.
  • On top of that, the Google search proposal applies only to search.
  • The Google proposal entirely excludes any choice of browsers.
  • So Google continues to profit from its illegal behavior, both from existing users and from browsers.
  • Alternatives to Google search are chosen using StatCounter, a global measure inherently biased toward Google that gives it an unfair edge in small markets.

Following years of pressure from parties including FairSearch and its members, Google has put forward a choice screen proposal that in some respects reflects changes we have been arguing for a long time are necessary.  FairSearch welcomes these changes.

But Google has done so only three years after the finding of infringement.  All the while it has continued to benefit from its past anticompetitive behaviour.  And Google’s announcement remains fundamentally flawed and falls well short of truly addressing the devastating effects of its anticompetitive behaviour.

For example:

  1. Google’s announcement does nothing to address the problem of consumer preference for browsers, allowing Google to perpetuate a proven infringement.
  2. Google’s announcement for the search choice screen would only apply to new users, taking effect in September. The millions of existing users Google acquired by illegal conduct would continue to suffer without true choice, gaining nothing. In other words, Google will continue to profit from conduct the Commission found to be unlawful.
  3. The revised choice screen relies indiscriminately on the identification of alternatives based on Statcounter, which as a global measuring system tends to favour Google and is ill-suited for smaller markets, rather than alternatives adapted to and focused on each local market.

Google’s approach is like a garage repairing the engine of a car but leaving its flat tires untouched.  The shortcomings of Google’s proposal significantly undermine the relevance of the choice screen changes it has announced.  We look forward to learning details of the announcement, but if Google is serious about antitrust compliance it should without delay address the obvious gaping holes.