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Schmidt Misleads Senators on Google Product Search

During last week’s Senate Antitrust Subcommittee hearing, Google took its misleading actions to a new level, providing blatantly inaccurate testimony on the core issue of whether Google preferences its own products in its search results.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) voiced his concern that the Internet giant has “cooked” search results to favor its own services.

In an effort to avoid admitting that Google does, in fact, preference its own price comparison product over competing price comparison sites, Mr. Schmidt surprisingly asserted (under oath) that these Google Product Search links take the user directly to a vendor and that they should not be compared to price comparison sites like Nextag, Pricegrabber, and Shopper:

“There’s a difference between sites that do product comparison and sites that offer products themselves. . .

[Google Product Search] is an organic search result which is triggered by a product search database which we have gathered by searching and ranking offerings from many different vendors.  If you click within that, you go to the vendor that will sell you the product.”

So, while implicitly admitting that Google did in fact give preferential placement to these links, Schmidt claimed that the links do not direct users to a price comparison site.  Is Schmidt right?

To test the truth of Schmidt’s sworn statement, we entered a search on Google for a digital camera.  And just as Senator Lee noted, Google Product Search displayed an uncanny ability to come up third in the search results.

More importantly, if you click on one of the Google Product Search links within that result, you don’t go straight to the vendor, as Schmidt claimed.  Instead, Google takes you to another Google page — the Google Product Search price comparison page (it’s worth noting that Google’s Product Search page also scrapes content from other price comparison sites).

In short, Schmidt misled the Senators about how Google Product Search works.

We’ll leave it up to Schmidt to explain the reasons for this deception.  But one thing is clear:  Google deceives consumers by hard-coding its own products in the top few search results.

Meanwhile, competing sites are pushed to the bottom of the search results page, making it more difficult for users to choose among competing sites based on the merits.