MP calls for restriction of Google’s power
A Labour MP has launched a stinging attack on the power of Google to damage British business through anti-competitive tactics.
In a Westminster Hall debate, Graham Jones, Labour MP for Hyndburn, called on the Government to take action against the search giant.
“Google has gone from being a competitor to a predator and from a horizontal organic search client to a monopoly giant, with subliminal and unclear sponsored searches that favour other Google products,” he said.
“Without search neutrality rules to constrain Google’s competitive advantage, we may be heading toward a bleakly uniform world of Google everything.”
The preferential placement of Google’s price comparison service, for example, caused traffic to the UK’s leading price comparison services to fall by an average of 41% over two years
The MP went on to highlight several British companies that he claimed had been affected by Google’s market power, which given a near 90% share of searched could suck the traffic from competing services.
“There are suggestions that Google’s search results are influenced by advertising and even that Google’s technology might deliberately lower the visibility of rival sites,” said Jones.
“The preferential placement of Google’s price comparison service, for example, caused traffic to the UK’s leading price comparison services to fall by an average of 41% over two years. During the same period, internet traffic in general rose by 30%. That is a marked contrast, but more marked is the fact that traffic to Google’s price comparison site rose by 125% during the same period.”
According to the MP’s figures, the preferential placement of Google Maps decimated traffic to Multimap and Streetmap, the UK’s two leading online mapping services, while RightMove, a British real estate portal, lost 10% of its market value on rumours that Google was planning a UK property search service.
“Competition for innovation”
In response, broadband minister Ed Vaizey played down the significance of the issue saying, that he believed that the internet should remain open to market forces, rather than regulation and that the status quo favoured innovation.
According to Vaizey, there are 177 search engines servicing the UK market.
However, Jones took a swipe at the perception that Google is an innovative company, highlighting that many of its sussecces were based via bought-in technology.
“Some will argue that Google is so innovative that we need not worry,” he said. “But Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Groups, Google Docs, Google Analytics, Android and many other Google products are all based on technology that Google has acquired rather than invented.”
Google hadn’t responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
The search giant is already facing an investigation into its search practices in the EU, which is probing whether Google is deliberately doctoring its search results to favour its own services.