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Retailers criticise Google over proposed search changes

22 September 2017 - 11:47 by Graham Miller

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Although the details of Google’s proposed changes to the way it displays shopping-related search results have yet to be made public, rival e-commerce companies have already issued complaints about the expected alterations and claimed that they will hit their profits, according to the Telegraph.

After Google was slapped with a fine worth more than £2 billion earlier this year, as a result of the way its own price comparison services were favoured on relevant results pages, questions about how the US tech giant might avoid the wrath of regulators emerged. It is now thought that it will allow competing price comparison sites to bid for the opportunity to earn their links a prominent position, in a move that is seen as problematic by many.

Other companies which offer safe shopping online have complained that the bidding process will be flawed, since Google itself will be able to place bids. This will mean that it could still secure the best positions for its own services, while forcing smaller firms to pay through the nose to be in with a similar chance.

This will create a win-win situation for Google in which it is milking money from retailers whichever way the bidding goes, resulting in a flurry of criticism from industry insiders.

Even with plans to limit the amount that Google can bid for slots to prevent its dominance, this may not be enough to convince retailers that the playing field has truly been levelled in the wake of regulatory action being taken. And the European Commission would have to approve any proposed changes, which is another hurdle that needs to be overcome.

Consumers who want to carry out safe shopping online may expect that the search engines they use to find products provide an unbiased look at the offers available. But as this story trundles on, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not the case.