SUMA-EV – Verein für freien Wissenszugang 25.11.2013
Directorate-General for Competition
Referenz Nummer: AT.39.740 – Google
Reply of SUMA-EV: Cases COMP/AT.39740 – Google – Google's revised proposed commitments, text of 21 October 2013
Since 2004, our organization „SUMA-EV - Association for Free Access to Knowledge“, has been working in the field of online search engines. As a non-profit organization we are committed to promote free access to knowledge for everyone, something which search engines play a vital part in. The abbreviation "SUMA" derives from the abbreviation of the German word for "search engine" (Suchmaschine). SUMA-EV was founded in the course of a project by the Leibniz University Hannover which went online with the development and the operation of the German largest meta search engine MetaGer in 1996. MetaGer.de evolved into SUMA-EV and we promote and develop several additional search engines as alternatives to companies which dominate the market.
We define ourselves as an umbrella organization of independent search engine providers. You can find a list of approximately 25 search engines run or developed by our members under: . We have therefore been closely following the Antitrust proceedings against Google and examined the commitments offered by Google.
We first replied to the commitments offered by Google some month ago on 29th of July 2013, which we rejected. We now consider the new commitments offered by Google and sent to complainants and interested third parties by the European Commission on 21st of October 2013.
We consider these new commitments as even worse and counterproductive to the competion on a digital market than the foregoing ones. For this reason we pose the following five requests:
1) The inclusion of three competitors on the first result page which is now offered by Google is based on a totally unacceptable auction model. It would exclude all small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Europe which cannot afford to bid in auctions of a kind provided for under the commitments. Instead the results offered by Google itself and any competitors must be treated by equal ranking methods. The main advancement in digital technology stems form SMEs. It is vital for the digital economy of Europe to keep theese SMSs visible online, especially where there is the market dominat search engine. Therefore we call for an equal treatment of search results within the Google search engine.
2) Google offers it's commitments just for European domains of it's search engine. This is unacceptable, because the international domain google.com is also used by European users. Therefore we ask that Google's commitments will be applied to google.com as well.
3) Google offers it's commitments not for mobile search. Because this is the fastest growing branch of the Internet business, we suggest that Google's commitments will be applied to mobile search too.
4) The keystone to one single search engine´s market dominance is the fact that Google is the default search engine in most browsers. The average user will not alter this pre-setting. In December 2012, Google paid approximately 1 billion Dollars for being the default Firefox browser search engine for additional three years. In addition, Google is the default search engine in its own Chrome browser, as well as in Opera and Safari . Through these default settings, Google reaches more than half of the European internet users in the field of PC desktop search, while this share is even considerably higher in the field of mobile devices (see above 3).
Therefore the browser is the ideal starting point. It should be subject to the current regulation rule applied elsewhere that users themselves are able to choose a standard search engine when installing the browser. Just like the 2005-7 proceedings against Microsoft where the Commission came to the decision that Microsoft must offer a choice of various browsers and media players during the installation to its users .
Furthermore, it should be regulated that Google should not be included as the default search engine in the browser address bar. In most cases, the user does not conduct a search query via a specific entry in a search engine, but simply enters the key words into the upper browser bar, from where the request is transferred automatically to Google.
5) In order to create more competition in this highly concentrated market, we further request that Google, to a certain extent, makes its index available to competitors through a publicly accessible interface, for example up to a maximum of 10% of Google's daily search queries; so that competition can grow. This competition was eliminated by Google anticompetitive practices during the last years.
We look back at 17 years of experience in the field of search engines. With our objections, ideas and proposals based on our long-term experience, we hope to contribute to a re-establishment of competition in this fundamental area of the Internet economy. If Google's new commitments would be accepted as they stand, the European Internet businesses will be deprived of the opportunity to bounce back from the enduring current enourmous digital lag.
We gladly remain at your disposal should you have any questions.
(CEO and director of SUMA-EV)