A group of search engine providers—DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Lilo, and Qwant—have asked the European Parliament to loosen Google’s stranglehold on the market via the Digital Markets Act.
The DMA was proposed alongside the Digital Services Act in December 2020. “Some large online platforms act as ‘gatekeepers’ in digital markets,” the European Parliament says on its site. “The Digital Markets Act aims to ensure that these platforms behave in a fair way online.”
But this group of search engine providers is concerned the DMA won’t be enough to give them a fighting chance against Google. They say in a letter to the European Parliament that the DMA “fails to address the most acute barrier in search: Google’s hoarding of default positions.”
The group is referring to Google being the default search engine on Android, Chrome OS, and other operating systems. Google does have to let European users choose a different search engine when they’re setting up an Android smartphone, but the group says that isn’t enough:
“First, it is neither available on Chrome desktop nor on other operating systems. Second, it is only shown once, in a Google-designed, Google-owned onboarding process when users are not inclined to make a search engine change. If they later decide to switch search defaults, they must labor through 15+ clicks or factory-reset their phone. Third, it doesn’t apply to all search access points in Android, and similarly we have no guarantees it will apply to new search access points that emerge.”
The group says it wants the DMA to “effectively ban Google from acquiring default search access points of the operating systems and the browsers of gatekeepers” and guarantee that consumers will have access to a one-click method of changing their default search engine.
There’s no denying that Google values being the default search option across a variety of platforms. The company reportedly paid $15 billion to remain the default search engine on iOS—and that was just for a single year. The price is expected to rise as high as $20 billion for 2022.
It seems reasonable to assume Google is getting a worthwhile return on investment, and that’s just on iOS. Remaining the default search option on platforms it developed specifically to complement its online services, Android and Chrome OS, is probably even more important.
DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg said in a statement that “the EU has a window of opportunity now to take this effective, difference-making action to curtail Google’s search monopoly and show the world how it should be done.”
Google didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment. It’s worth noting that the DMA and DSA are still just proposals, so even if this letter has an impact, it won’t be felt for a while.