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Google’s Search Dominance in South Africa Under Investigation

 |  July 31, 2023

Google’s search dominance in South Africa came under the spotlight this week after the Competition Commission announced its findings in a major investigation.

According to Yahoo News, the inquiry, which was launched in 2021, looked into Google, Takealot, Uber Eats and Apple’s App Store, among other tech platforms, and determined that Google Search’s ‘dominance and business model distort platform competition, as small and new platforms struggle for visibility and customer acquisition’.

Competition Commission chairman James Hodge explained: “Google has an influence on platform competition because it is where most online journeys start. Google does give prominence to paid results, which means that the largest platforms with the biggest marketing budgets can dominate the Google search page.”

This prompted the watchdog to recommend measures focused on improving listed visibility for smaller south African companies in search results. Of these, Google would have to introduce a unit that displayed smaller platforms relevant to the query and provide 180 million Rand ($10.2 million) in advertising credits for platforms to use for customer acquisition, along with free training.

Read more: Indian Court Rules Against Google, Protects Disney’s Streaming Service

It must also create a new flag identifier and search filter to help South African customers identify local platforms, and provide 150 million rand to help small and medium-sized enterprises and black-owned firms in organic results. To eliminate self-preferencing of its own products, the commission demanded Google ‘cease self-preferencing its own products’ in search results, as it was found to be appearing at the top of all searches.

Siyavuya Madikane, Google spokesperson, responded to the findings: “South Africans look to our platform for relevant and high quality search results that they can trust. This creates choice and generates millions of free visits to South African sites and businesses across the web every day. We are reviewing the Competition Commission’s final report.”

Similarly, Takealot was given recommendations by the Competition Commission which included splitting its marketplace and retail businesses.

A Takealot spokesperson said: “We acknowledge the report and are considering its findings.”

The investigation is yet another example of large jurisdictions such as the US, Europe and India tackling Google’s alleged dominance in search and ad-tech functions. With its landmark findings, South Africa follows suit and is said to have taken decisive steps to ensure the platform meets its promise of providing a fair, competitive marketplace for all.

Source: Finance Yahoo