Google’s jobs search draws antitrust complaints from rivals - GulfToday

Google job search draws huge antitrust complaints from rivals

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A Google sign is seen during an Artificial Intelligence conference in Shanghai, China. Reuters

Alphabet unit Google could face more regulatory heat in Europe after 23 online job search websites urged EU antitrust regulators to act against the company for allegedly using its market power to favour its job search unit.

In a letter sent to European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Tuesday, the companies said they have lost market share since Google launched its Google for Jobs service in Europe last year.

Vestager has been looking into Google’s jobs search and local search functions since 2018. The criticism from the companies, which include British site BestJobsOnline to German peers Intermedia and Jobindex, could strengthen her hand.

The stakes are high for Google, which has been hit with 8.25 billion euros ($9.25 billion) in EU fines in the last two years for thwarting rivals. The jobs site could also provide another lucrative revenue stream if it is opened up to advertising.

“Having launched its online recruitment service in Germany in May 2019, as in other EU countries (Spain, France and the UK), Google for Jobs instantly became market leader in visibility,” the companies wrote in the letter. They said Google was acting as more than just an online recruitment service.

Google’s fast-growing tool for searching job listings has been a boon for employers and job boards starving for candidates, but several rival job-finding services contend anti-competitive behaviour has fueled its rise and cost them users and profits. In a letter to be sent to European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, 23 job search websites in Europe called on her to temporarily order Google to stop playing unfairly while she investigates.

Similar to worldwide leader Indeed and other search services familiar to job seekers, Google’s tool links to postings aggregated from many employers. It lets candidates filter, save and get alerts about openings, though they must go elsewhere to apply.

Alphabet Inc’s Google places a large widget for the 2-year-old tool at the top of results for searches such as “call centre jobs” in most of the world.

Some rivals allege that positioning is illegal because Google is using its dominance to attract users to its specialized search offering without the traditional marketing investments they have to make.

Other job technology firms say Google has restored industry innovation and competition.

The tensions expose a new front in the battle between Google and online publishers reliant on search traffic, just as EU and US antitrust regulators heed calls to scrutinize tech giants including Google. Google so far over the last decade has withstood similar accusations from companies in local business and travel search.

Vestager, who has been examining job search on Google, leaves office Oct. 31. But a person familiar with the review told Reuters that Vestager is preparing an “intensive” handover so that her successor does not drop it. Her office declined to comment on the handoff.

Lack of action could spur Tuesday’s signatories, which include British site Best Jobs Online to German peers Intermedia and Jobindex, to follow with formal complaints against Google to Vestager, a person familiar with the matter said.

Berlin-based StepStone GmbH, which operates 30 job websites globally, and another German search service already have taken that step, another person said. The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice, which are examining online competition in the United States, declined to comment on whether they are probing Google’s jobs search.

Industry executives universally expect that Google will sell ads in the jobs tool, as is typical for its services, enabling the world’s biggest seller of online ads to claw billions of dollars in revenue from rivals.

Google long has been frustrated by other search engines filling its results, because they both add a step in users’ quest for quick information and pose a threat to its ads empire.

Nick Zakrasek, senior product manager for Google search, said that the company welcomed the industry feedback on jobs search. Google said its offering addresses previous antitrust complaints by allowing rival search services to participate and includes a feature in Europe designed to give rivals prominence.

“Any provider - from individual employers to job listing platforms - can utilize this feature in search, and many of them have seen a significant increase in the number of job applications they receive,” Zakrasek said in a statement. “By improving the search experience for jobs, we’re able to deliver more traffic to sites across the web and support a healthy job search ecosystem.”

Google includes jobs only from websites that follow its guidelines, which require postings to be structured such that its computers can easily interpret them. Many leading players have conformed.

Reuters