MP slams Google for anti-competitive practices

Houses of Parliament

Google has been called a "predator" and "monopoly giant" by a Labour MP, complaining the internet heavyweight was ruining the chances for British companies to get ahead.

Graham Jones, MP for Hyndburn, secured a debate on UK search engines in the House of Commons this week and used the opportunity to document all his concerns surrounding the US company.

"In my view, Google has gone from being a competitor to a predator and from a horizontal organic search client to a monopoly giant, with subliminal and unclear sponsored searches that favour other Google products," he said.

Jones cited Google's results which showed the company had made 2.2 billion in the UK throughout 2010 the equivalent of around 50 per cent of UK online advertising revenue.

"Google [has become] subject to an EU anti-trust investigation into its European operations, with allegations of anti-competitive behaviour," he said. "There are suggestions that Google's search results are influenced by advertising and even that Google's technology might deliberately lower the visibility of rival sites."

Jones claimed that although Google has a responsibility to be "open and transparent" it had abused its position.

"Because of its domination of the global search market and its ability to penalise competitors by placing its own services at the top of search results, Google has a virtually unassailable competitive advantage," he said.

"Moreover, Google can deploy that advantage well beyond the confines of the search engine sector to any service that it chooses. Wherever it does so, incumbents are toppled, new entrants are suppressed and innovation is imperilled."

Jones used Google's price comparison service as an example, claiming traffic to the UK's leading price comparison services fell by an average of 41 per cent over two years.

"The delineation between advertising and search results is becoming blurred [and] it is becoming more difficult to separate a sponsored from an unsponsored result," he said.

"Google's revenues exceeded $29 billion last year, but that pales next to the hundreds of billions of dollars of other companies' revenues that Google controls indirectly through search results and sponsored links."

He added: "That revenue-driven model has encouraged Google to begin promoting its own services at or near the top of its search results, bypassing the algorithms that it uses to rank the services of others."

However, Ed Vaizey, the Government's communications minister, said: "It is open to the consumer to choose the product that best suits them, but it is also open to individual companies to partner with whichever companies they choose."

"Consumers want a service that offers good performance and enables them to find what they want quickly and easily. Google has entered a market and gained market share by giving consumers what they want."

This week, Eric Schmidt met with Government officials at Downing Street to discuss plans for a new innovation centre to be based in London's Silicon Roundabout' area.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.