November 7, 2019 / 6:15 PM / a month ago

EU's Vestager says Google's antitrust proposal not helping shopping rivals

FILE PHOTO: An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Alphabet unit Google’s proposal to create a level playing field for price comparison shopping rivals to stave off fresh fines has not led to more traffic for its competitors, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Thursday.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager two years ago slapped Google with a 2.4-billion-euro ($2.65 billion)fine for favoring its own price comparison shopping service and told it to stop its anti-competitive business practices.

The world’s most popular internet search engine subsequently offered to allow competitors to bid for advertising space at the top of a search page, giving them the chance to compete on equal terms.

The proposal does not seem to be doing the trick, Vestager said.

“We may see a show of rivals in the shopping box. We may see a pickup when it comes to clicks for merchants. But we still do not see much traffic for viable competitors when it comes to shopping comparison,” she told a Web Summit conference.

British price comparison service Foundem, whose original complaint triggered the EU case against Google, has said the company is not complying with the EU ruling and wants Vestager to launch a non-compliance case.

Vestager also said she was closely monitoring Google’s proposal in another case involving its Android mobile operating system for which the company was fined 4.34 billion euros for blocking rivals by pre-installing its Chrome browser and search app on Android smartphones and notebooks.

“So now Google will launch a choice screen where competitors can be chosen, and also as the default, with prices that are much more affordable than in the first version. It remains to be seen how this will work but we will follow it very very closely,” she said.

Google has previously said it would allow rivals to compete to be the default search engines on new Android devices in Europe, but they would have to pay for the privilege. Rivals have criticised the auction fees.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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