Google’s long battle with European antitrust regulators over what the European Commission deemed to be anti-competitive search practices appears to be reaching a conclusion. The commission’s competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia has approved the settlement, but a formal vote among all commissioners will reportedly take place in the coming months. The agreement would mean Google would avoid paying a penalty that could have reached $5 billion.
First, Google is loosening restrictions it had placed on publishers in the European Union who ran AdSense ads on their sites from incorporating ads from other third-party providers. Google will also give advertisers who buy search ads through AdWords an easier way to run their search ad campaigns through competitor services. Thirdly, the search giant must let competitors opt out from having their results used in Google’s vertical search products without impacting the third-parties’ results in organic Google results.
But the biggest — and most contested — changes have to do with how Google will display competitor search results.
When a Google user searches for a product, for example, Google will now have to surface at least three alternatives next to where it displays its own Google Shopping results in a box. Same thing for flight results. The full text of the settlement explains how Google will decide which alternative results should be chosen and who’s eligible for such placements.
But below are screenshots to give you a feel for what the changes will look like.
Product search results before changes:
Product search results after proposed changes:
Here’s how Google proposes to incorporate alternative listings on mobile phones:
And, finally, here’s how the “Alternatives” box might look on search results for flights: