JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Competition Commission, which has been investigating online markets for more than a year, has tentatively found that Google’s paid search results distort competition, making it a “de facto monopoly” in general research.
Governments around the world are stepping up regulation of American tech giants that have grown even more powerful during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are numerous surveys globally of their market positions, including in the United States and the European Union.
The competition watchdog said in a statement the prevalence of Google’s paid search at the top of the search results page “without adequate identifiers because advertising increases the platform’s customer acquisition costs. forms and promotes large, often global platforms”.
While “the preferential placement of their own specialized search units also distorts competition in favor of Google”.
Google will review the report and work constructively with the commission to answer their questions, a Google spokesperson said in an email response.
“The competition that Google faces continues to grow: there are more ways than ever for people to find information, from specialized sites for travel and shopping, or from other search engines , social media and elsewhere,” the spokesperson added.
The watchdog tentatively recommended that paid results be clearly labeled as advertising with borders and shadows to be clearer to consumers and that the top of the page be reserved for organic or natural search results based solely on relevance and not influenced by payments.
He also recommended that Google allow competitors to compete for prominence in a search by having their own specialized units and without positions guaranteed to Google.
“The survey is also exploring whether the default position of Google search on mobile devices should end in South Africa,” he added.
The search giant is facing numerous investigations in the United States and Europe, with the British competition regulator launching its second investigation into Google’s advertising practices in May.
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)
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