Regulators Crack Google for Opaque Services

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It is still too unclear for consumers who use Google services how the technology group works. For example, it is not always clear why Google ranks certain search results higher than others with the search engine.

 

The Play Store for apps also often lacks information, say European consumer authorities investigating certain Google products.

The Dutch Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) and the Belgian Economic Inspectorate led the investigation. Several “points for improvement” emerged from this. The regulators find, among other things, that Google is not transparent enough about ranking results in its search engine. For example, the company should indicate whether certain brands or companies have paid for a higher place.

According to the regulators, essential information is sometimes missing in the Play Store, where the majority of all people with an Android phone download apps. For example, it is not always clear who the seller of a product in the app store is. In addition, according to the ACM, Google does not always provide clear information about the terms of service for apps in the Play Store. For example, in its special search functions for hotels or flights, Google often fails to show prices, including taxes or other necessary costs.

According to the regulators, by acting so opaquely, Google is not adhering well to rules that protect consumers against deception. If the American group does not implement the improvements provided, there will be a follow-up investigation, resulting in fines.

“Consumers must be able to assume that they are not being misled. Therefore, the information they receive must be clear and complete,” said ACM board member Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh. “False reviews or unclear paid rankings should not drive the choices they make. Contact addresses should also be easy to find. In other words, consumers should be able to google with confidence.”

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