European publishers united in Google challenge

In what is being called "an unprecedented show of solidarity," hundreds of Europe's leading publishers have joined forces to call on European Commission Vice President Joaquín Almunia to reject outright the draft measures offered by Google to end their abusive practices.

Google: publishers unite to challenge Google's search practices
Google: publishers unite to challenge Google's search practices

The European Commission is investigating whether Google’s dominant position in search (more than 90%) creates "potential harm to consumers in terms of reduced choice, quality and innovation" online.

Google has proposed several commitments to bring the investigation to an end. In particular, it has offered to label its own preferred links to its own sites in search results. 

However, publishers and their trade associations at European and national levels, insist this will mislead consumers into thinking these were somehow tailor made results to their search queries and interests, thereby causing even greater harm to competition.

Google has also provided website operators with the option to block their websites from access by Google. But publishers do not believe this is a serious option given Google is now overwhelmingly dominant and the de facto gateway to the internet.

Press publishers’ concerns are increased by the fact that queries entered by European users on Google.com, Google Chrome, Voice Search, or Google search engines integrated on other sites are excluded from the proposed remedies.

Speaking on behalf of the informal press publishers’ coalition, the president of the complainant VDZ (German magazine publishers’ association), Hubert Burda, said: "If Google does not come up with fundamentally improved proposals very soon, we call on the Commission to use its full legal powers, including an immediate Statement of Objections with effective remedies.

"Fair and non-discriminatory search with equal criteria for all websites is an essential prerequisite for the prosperous development of the European media and technology sector."

Complainants and interested parties were invited by the Commission to "market test" Google’s proposed remedies by 27 June. Based on the outcome, the Commission is expected to decide whether or not to accept Google’s offer and make the commitments binding on Google, thereby closing the investigation without a prohibition decision or a fine.

A joint statement by the coalition of European publishers called it "an unprecedented move of solidarity". The informal coalition consists of the formal complainants from the press sector: Bundesverband Deutscher Zeitungsverleger (BDZV), Verband Deutscher Zeitschriftenverleger (VDZ), Asociación Editores de Diarios Españoles (AEDE) and their European Associations and its respective members European Magazine Media Association (EMMA), European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA), European Publishers Council (EPC) and Online Publishers Association Europe (OPA Europe).

Additional signatories are: Aikakausmedia / Aikakauslehtien (AKM), Association luxembourgeoise des éditeurs de journaux (AL), Asociación de Revistas de Información (ARI), Czech Publishers’ Association (CPA), Federazione Italiana Editori Giornali (FIEG), Mediebedriftenes Landsforening,  National Newspapers Of Ireland (NN), The Newspaper Society (NS), NDP Nieuwsmedia (NDP), Polish Chamber of Press Publishers (WP), Professional Publishers Association (PPA), Sanomalehtien Liitto (SL), Sveriges Tidskrifter (SMPA), The Swedish Media Publishers’ Association (TU), Union des Editeurs de la Presse Périodique (UPP), SCHWEIZER MEDIEN, Austrian Newspaper Association (VÖZ)

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