Just last week I started but did not finish a post asking what was going on with the EC’s Google investigation. For some reason, I had memories from early in the year of expectations of resolution “soon,” although I didn’t have any success (briefly) looking back for statements supporting those memories.
Nonetheless, “soon” was the right word last week, apparently. According to the NY Times, the EC has accepted Google’s proposed search settlement. There is no official release confirming that yet, so details on the remedy remain scarce and we will have to wait to see if it makes any more sense than the EC’s browser remedy. My guess is that it won’t be much better.
The Times’ sources seems to be saying that the remedy will include labeling links to Google’s downstream products. To the extent that the concern is that giving preferential treatment to Google products reinforces Google’s search strength, it’s difficult to see how that remedy is going to achieve much. But perhaps the labels will make search users view Google’s results as biased and go running for other search options.
More meaningful might be the alleged requirement that Google display results from three downstream competitors for vertical properties from which it generates ad revenue. We’ll have to wait and see how that works, but it’s not hard to imagine a future in which the fourth competitor isn’t happy about being shut out.
The next step, apparently, will be for the proposed remedy to be market tested. Unlike some industries, one of the more interesting aspects of this case is the seemingly readily available data to assess remedy effectiveness. If these changes don’t move the traffic needle much, will the EC ask for more in the future?