Competing Search Engines Won’t Support Google’s Auction

Alternative Search Engines Decry Google’s Auction, Saying It’s Anticompetitive

Google is holding an auction for search engines to bid to be one of the default choices on Androids in Europe, but some search engines say the auction is unethical and anticompetitive and that they won’t participate, according to reports.

Ecosia, a search engine that dedicates most of its profits to planting trees, said it won’t take part in the auction and Google should stop its “damaging monopolistic behavior,” which it calls “unethical and anti-competitive.”

The German search engine said the auction is an “insult to the European Commission and to the principle of equality in front of the law,” and it limits the options for users.

“Alternative search engines that focus on privacy or specific causes are unlikely to be able to competitively bid in this suggested auction set-up,” Ecosia said. “Profit focused partners, many of whom have access to higher monetizing Google ads, automatically have better odds in this setup. This means that the competitors which are purpose-driven (and not solely profit orientated) are conveniently removed from the auction process.”

Google announced the auction in early August, and it will go into effect in 2020. When someone sets up a new Android, they’ll see a screen asking what default search engine they want to use. There will only be three alternative choices, and that’s part of the problem, according to Ecosia.

After Google made the announcement about the auction, Ecosia CEO Christian Kroll said: “This is really disappointing news — Ecosia is a not-for-profit search engine, and we use our revenue to plant trees in areas affected by deforestation or desertification, not to get into bidding wars. If we choose to enter an auction and pay Google for the privilege of being a search engine option on Android, this will potentially be at the expense of millions of trees we could otherwise have planted.”

Ecosia said the alternative choices create “artificial scarcity” and don’t let people know that they have more options.

Gabriel Weinberg, founder and CEO of privacy-driven search engine DuckDuckGo shared that sentiment.

“A pay-to-play auction with only 4 slots means consumers won’t get all the choices they deserve, and Google will profit at the expense of the competition,” he said in a tweet. “We encourage regulators to work directly with Google, us, and others to ensure the best system for consumers.”