Google fears changes to meet new EU law will limit users' choices in Europe

EU's Digital Markets Act, which will come into force on March 8, aims to make the digital sector fairer

Google is upgrading its advertising products and tools to help advertisers seek consent for data they collect in Europe. AFP
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Alphabet-owned Google, which is making a series of changes to meet the requirements of EU’s latest Digital Markets Act (DMA), has expressed concerns some rules will reduce the choice available to people and businesses in Europe.

The world's largest provider of search and video advertisements said it was making changes after discussion with the European Commission, industry stakeholders and consumer associations through workshops, events and direct interactions.

They are the result of “intensive work over many months” from engineers, researchers, product managers and product designers from across the company, said Oliver Bethell, Google’s director for competition.

“A number of the new rules involve difficult trade-offs that will impact the people and businesses who use our products.”

This is the fairest way to offer alternative billing, as it puts the user fully in control of their preferred transaction method
Oliver Bethell, Google’s director for competition

“We have sought to balance various important issues and engage with relevant stakeholders about these trade-offs as we implement our compliance measures.”

For example, Google said changes to its search platform may send more traffic to large intermediaries and aggregators, and less to direct suppliers such as hotels, airlines, merchants and restaurants.

For consumers, some of the features Google has developed to help get things done quickly and securely online, such as providing recommendations across various products, will not work in the same way any more, it added.

The National looks at the new law and some of the changes that Google has made to comply.

What is Digital Markets Act?

The new law, which will come into force on March 8, aims to make the digital sector markets “fairer and contestable” in Europe.

It establishes a set of criteria to identify “gatekeepers”, large digital platforms providing services such as online search engines, app stores and messenger services.

DMA, which requires operating systems to allow users to use third-party apps and app stores, is one of the first tools to regulate the gatekeeper power of large digital companies such as Google and Apple.

The European Commission said companies that depend on gatekeepers to offer their services will have a “fairer business environment”, while technology start-ups will have new opportunities to compete.

It will also allow consumers to compare prices and switch their service provider if they wish.

More choices for consumers

Google said it has introduced more than 20 product changes, including dedicated units to let users find comparison sites in areas such as flights, hotels and shopping.

As per the new regulations, companies like Google will show additional choice screens to users. When users use an Android (Google-owned OS) phone, they can easily switch their search engine or browser.

Giving users more control over their data

Currently, Google shares data across some of its products and services to offer personalised content and ads, depending on users’ settings. Now users in the European Economic Area can choose if they want to continue to share data across Google services or not.

Google is also upgrading its advertising products and tools to help advertisers communicate consent for data they collect, in accordance the long standing EU end user consent policy.

Alternative billing

The DMA requires app stores to allow developers to use alternative billing systems for the completion of in-app purchases.

Google has launched two programmes that allow app developers to transact with their EEA users through the developer’s own billing system, rather than through Google Play’s billing system.

“This is the fairest way to offer alternative billing, as it puts the user fully in control of their preferred transaction method,” Mr Bethell said.

Google Play also allows developers to communicate with customers outside their app about offers or lower-cost options available on a rival app store or the developer’s website.

Caught on the wrong foot in Europe

Google has previously faced troubles in EU over various issues related to misleading advertising and the amount of tax it pays.

In July 2021, it was fined €500 million ($542.3 million) by French authorities after the company failed to comply with orders on how to conduct “fair” talks with the country's news publishers and agencies.

In June 2021, Google agreed to pay €220 million to French authorities and said it will change the way its online advertising works.

In March 2019, it was also fined €1.5 billion by the EU for practices deemed to be anti-competitive. This followed previous anti-trust disputes in 2017 and 2018 that led to the company being slapped with total fines of €6.8 billion.

Updated: March 05, 2024, 3:40 PM