A Quick Fact-Check on Some of Mr Schmidt’s Testimony Before the Senate Antitrust Sub-Committee
The Senate Antitrust Sub-Committee used one of Foundem’s scattergram graphs in its hearing earlier today. Senator Lee asked Mr Schmidt a few questions around the data. We believe that Mr Schmidt’s answers may have been misleading in several ways. For example:
- Mr Schmidt suggested that the data was comparing "apples to oranges". Mr Schmidt implied that Google Product Search is some kind of "product search", not some kind of price comparison service. This is strange. Most people would consider Google Product Search to be a price comparison service. We wonder what Mr Schmidt would consider to be Google Product Search’s competitors, if not price comparison services?
- Also, if Google Product Search is not a price comparison service, then it begs the important question: why did Google Product Search show up so consistently at or near the top of Google’s search results for the hundreds of product-price-comparison-related queries shown in Foundem’s graph? Why does Google’s Universal Search mechanism so consistently place Google Product Search at or near the top of most price-comparison-related searches, if Google Product Search is not a price comparison service? For example, hundreds of the data points shown in Foundem’s graph were for queries of the form: "compare prices [MAKE MODEL]" and "best prices [MAKE MODEL]".
- Mr Schmidt also suggested that if a user clicked on these prominently placed Google Product Search links it would merely take them to a vendor site. This is not true in most cases. In the vast majority of cases a click on these links takes users to Google Product Search – Google’s own ad-supported service – not to a vendor.
The data in the above chart was collected on April 15 2011. Some examples of the 650 product- and product-price-comparison-related searches illustrated include: “Canon PowerShot S95”, “best prices Canon PowerShot S95”, “compare prices Canon PowerShot S95”, “Canon PowerShot S95 prices”, and so on for a wide variety of products.
For a more complete description of some of Foundem’s analysis and arguments around the anti-competitive power of Google’s Universal Search mechanism, see our comment to the FCC.
And, for our latest thoughts on some of the issues underpinning the current antitrust investigations into Google, please see our recent article, "Penalties, Self-Preferencing, and Panda: Why Google’s Behaviour Makes Antitrust Sanctions Inevitable".