The ACCC wants all Android devices to have a dedicated screen for selecting search engines
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has reiterated its call for Google to implement a mandatory search engine “choice screen” after seeing the company’s dominance in the online search market hurt competition and consumers.
The option screen is a setup page that shows consumers a selection of search engines to use, rather than sending consumers to a preset default search engine.
“Screen options can give consumers the opportunity to make informed choices about the search engine they are using. Screen options can also help reduce expansion barriers for Google’s competitors, which may offer consumers more options for alternative search engines around issues such as privacy and how personal data is collected and used, ”said ACCC chair Rod Sims.
The call was made as part of the competition’s third interim report [PDF] for its five -year Digital Platforms Inquiry, which looks specifically at Google Search’s market dominance.
In the interim report, the ACCC said Google currently owns 94% of the online search market, which is in large part due to Google Search being the preset default search engine for Google Chrome and Apple Safari. Chrome and Safari have a combined browser market share of over 80% on desktop devices and nearly 90% on mobile devices.
According to the ACCC, Google gets significant value from being the default search engine for Safari, where Google is estimated to receive approximately $ 8 to $ 12 billion per year in advertising revenue from being the default search engine. of Safari, and the default provider of Siri and Spotlight for search queries on Apple devices.
The watchdog also noted, however, that Google’s royalty payments to Mozilla for having Google Search as its default search engine contributed more than 90% of Mozilla’s annual revenue worldwide.
With market dominance and control over key search access points, the ACCC said fewer innovative services are likely to be developed and such services have limited reach. Examples of this are search engines that emphasize privacy and minimal data collection, such as DuckDuckGo and Brave.
The concept of screen selection is not new, as Google implemented the proposal two years ago for new Android devices in some European countries to comply with EU rules.
But the ACCC said the EU selection screen proposal had had “limited impact”, both in terms of market concentration level and consumer reach, due to the EU’s Android selection screen design and implementation its as a screen option that only applies to new devices.
Detailing how the ACCC wants the Australian version of the option screen to work, the regulator said the measure should first be applied to new and existing Android mobile devices and to all search access points on these Android mobile devices .
It added that the screen measure option could also include restricting a provider, who meets pre-defined criteria, from tying or bundling search services with other products or services.
The other thing flagged in the interim report is that less than a third of respondents to the ACCC’s 2021 consumer survey are aware of privacy-focused search engines and mobile browsers, despite 70% of consumers who reports concerns about the collection of data and personal information by browsers and search engines.
The survey also found that 35% of consumers don’t know how to change the default browser on their mobile device or aren’t sure if they know how to do it. For desktop use, this issue affected one in five consumers.
Last month, the ACCC criticized Google’s ad tech practices, accusing the tech giant of creating “systemic competition concerns” as part of its inquiry into Australia’s ad tech market.
From examining open display ads – which are online ads other than those displayed on a general search engine or classified websites that trade on open channels – the regulator found that Google’s share of impressions for the four major ad tech services used in Australia it is between 70- 100% and, for ad tech services where revenue information is available, Google’s revenue share is between 40- 70%.
The inquiry into ad tech services ended after the ACCC made those findings, where the watchdog is now considering how to implement broader ad tech changes as part of the Digital Platform Services Inquiry.