Search Engines Push to Open Default Positions –

DuckDuckGo, Qwant, Ecosia and Lilo sent an open letter to EU lawmakers on Thursday, October 7, urging them to take action against their dominant rival Google in the upcoming Digital Markets Act (DMA) legislative proposal.

While endorsing the objective of the proposed act, search engines claim that “the DMA fails to overcome the most acute hurdle in search: Google’s hoarding of default positions.”

According to its competitors, Google has managed to achieve its position in the market by becoming the default search engine for many applications, which they see as the “root cause” of its market dominance.

The four tech companies also say the landmark antitrust ruling against Google on its default settings has yet to bear fruit. The European Commission imposed a record fine of over € 4 billion on Google in 2018 for improperly using Android to strengthen its dominance in the search engine market.

The EU executive also ordered Google to ensure a level playing field for its competitors, which forced them to give consumers the option of competing search engines on Android devices in Europe.

However, the joint letter states that users are encouraged to choose their default search engine only once and in a format that they deem favorable to Google.

Search engines have pointed out that the ruling does not apply to the desktop version of the popular Chrome web browser, which is also owned by Google, and does not apply to all current or future search access points on Android.

Accordingly, they consider that “despite recent changes, we do not believe that it [the Android decision] will significantly shift market share due to its persistent limitations.

The joint letter expresses support for the requirements for a “well-designed preference menu”, a provision put forward by MEP Yon-Courtin in her DMA opinion for the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Affairs (ECON).

“The DMA should enshrine in law the requirement for a search engine preferences menu that would effectively prohibit Google from acquiring search access points by default of operating systems and browsers from gatekeepers,” indicates the letter.

The four search engines also said that the choice of default search engine settings should be one-click changeable at any time.

“These actions would ultimately have important implications for competition in the search engine market and ensure genuine choice for online consumers,” the letter concludes.

The DMA is currently undergoing a co-legislative process and is expected to enter into force in 2023.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/ Alice Taylor]

Rosemary S. Bishop