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Open Letter to Vice-President Almunia from 11 Complainants

March 21st, 2013

The following letter was sent to Vice-President Almunia on 21 March 2013:


Dear Vice-President Almunia,

RE: COMP/C-3/39.740 – Foundem / Google and associated cases

We are writing to express our common views on the European Commission’s ongoing settlement negotiations with Google. The Commission opened proceedings more than two years ago, and we are becoming increasingly concerned that effective and future-proof remedies might not emerge through settlement discussions alone.

The first point we would like to raise is that the anti-competitive impact of search manipulation far outweighs the Commission’s three other areas of concern regarding Google’s business practices. In addition to materially degrading the user experience and limiting consumer choice, Google’s search manipulation practices lay waste to entire classes of competitors in every sector where Google chooses to deploy them.

The second point we would like to raise is that there are two equally important aspects to Google’s search manipulation practices: the systematic promotion of Google’s own services, and the systematic demotion or exclusion of its competitors’ services. Any effective remedies will require explicit commitments to end both aspects; remedying one without remedying the other would simply allow Google to recalibrate the un-remedied practice in order to achieve the same or equivalent anti-competitive effect.

Thirdly, we are convinced that Google’s strict adherence to the following overarching principle would ensure an end to both aspects of Google’s search manipulation practices:

Google must be even-handed. It must hold all services, including its own, to exactly the same standards, using exactly the same crawling, indexing, ranking, display, and penalty algorithms.

We will respectfully withhold judgement on Google’s proposed commitments until we have seen them, but Google’s past behaviour suggests that it is unlikely to volunteer effective, future-proof remedies without being formally charged with infringement. Given this, and the fact that Google has exploited every delay to further entrench, extend, and escalate its anti-competitive activities, we urge the Commission to issue the Statement of Objections.

Yours sincerely,

Shivaun Raff,
CEO and Co-Founder, Foundem

Helmut Verdenhalven,
Director Government Relations, BDZV Federation of German Newspaper Publishers

Dr. h.c. Hans Biermann,
Chief Executive Officer, Euro-Cities AG

Brent Thompson,
Senior Vice President Government and Corporate Affairs, Expedia Inc.

Michael Weber,
Managing Director, Hot Maps Medien GmbH

Kate Sutton,
Director, Streetmap EU Ltd

Seth Kalvert,
Senior Vice President, General Counsel, TripAdvisor

Bastien Duclaux,
CEO and co-Founder, Twenga

Dr. Christoph Fiedler,
Managing Director European Affairs and Media Policy, VDZ German Federation of Magazine Publishers

Heiko Hanslik,
President, VfT Verband freier Telefonbuch und Auskunftsmedien e.V. (Association of Independent Directory Publishers)

Robert Maier,
Founder and Managing Director, Visual Meta GmbH

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