Open Internet Project Manifesto

Paris Declaration of May 15, 2014

European Consumers and Digital Entrepreneurs demand ban of Google’s manipulative favouring of own services and content

It’s a matter of worldwide importance. The search engine monopolist Google with over 90 percent market share in the European Union manipulates its search results. It promotes its own services and content and downgrades those of competitors, which may be more relevant to consumers’ queries. For several reasons, this is unacceptable.
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If a business cannot be found online, it cannot compete. Conversely, if Google’s services always appear most prominently, irrespective of their relevance, consumers may not find the most relevant offerings. Innovative digital enterprises that are creating jobs all over Europe risk their very existence if this abusive search manipulation persists.

The root of the problem is Google’s conflict of interest : Since Google operates both a monopoly search engine and non-search related services, it has an incentive and the ability to use its search engine to divert consumers to its other offerings. Leading users to its own websites gives Google a competitive advantage that no rival can match.

In the face of this threat, in Germany the government of Angela Merkel has invoked the notion of “search without discrimination” in the coalition agreement of CDU, CSU and SPD.

The credibility of European competition law enforcement is at risk : Since the launch of the Google antitrust investigation in 2010, the European Commission has been unable to remedy the serious concerns relating to Google’s conduct. Instead it is planning to give in to the giant by concluding a settlement largely behind closed doors that would in principle legalise Google’s self-preference in return of commitments which have been almost unanimously criticized as being entirely ineffective if not counterproductive by Consumer Organizations and businesses alike. Against this background, it is of little surprise that a growing number of EU Commissioners is opposing the route of a settlement.

On behalf of European Consumers and Digital Entrepreneurs the undersigning parties call upon the European Commission :

  • to effectively address all competition concerns relating to Google’s conduct;
  • in particular, to safeguard equal search, display and ranking criteria for all websites, including Google's own services as soon as possible.
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