So, in case you haven’t heard, Google has been a bit naughty. The internet giant has been fined £2.1 billion due to some favouritism towards their own shopping results; in short, they haven’t been playing fair and a number of other companies have decided that they should pay for their actions.
Google has been found guilty of promoting their own shopping comparison services instead of allowing other comparison sites to compete on the same level. In a sense, they’ve demoted other companies in order to push themselves to the top of search result pages. Although this may sound like a case of saying sorry and agreeing to right their wrongs, Google has actually been acting illegally and have broken the EU’s antitrust law.
Since 2008, Google has been adapting the way the Product Listing Ads (PLAs) are displayed which has been giving them a more prominent placement than other competitors. Sites such as Kelkoo, Idealo and Germany’s Ladenzeile are amongst those caught up in Google’s foul play and to say they’re not happy is an understatement.
What impact will the Google fine have in the future?
You may be wondering if this is really a big deal and the answer is, potentially. If Google decides to change their ways and play fair with the rest of its competitors, it should allow other small companies to make a name for themselves. However, this means any shady activity from Google in the future will not go undetected. Mark Patterson, Fordham Law School Professor who specialises in Law and Internet Law, says that we’ve been shown “the dark side of Google’s algorithms” which will most likely lead to more rigorous monitoring for all tech companies.
Although the governing body believes the change will be for the good, there are some worries about the fine potentially ruining the user experience for online shoppers. At the moment, you Google something, the shopping ad comes up and, with one click, you’re on the site with your desired product. With the inclusion of comparison sites, a third step will be added in, meaning the user journey is more time consuming and complicated – something users absolutely hate and could put them off using the service completely.
What happens now?
From the date it was issued, Google only have 90 days to implement their changes, otherwise additional fines may come their way. Somehow, Google must come up with a fair remedy which will offer “equal treatment” for other shopping sites, whilst maintaining the first-class user experience it is favoured for.