“As Google looks to grow by launching more products, it will no longer be able to take for granted its access to the market and will need to compete for search rankings just like everyone else,” said Randy Giusto, vice president and analyst at Outsell.
“With several recent product flops, ultimately this could be good for Google as well as consumers, as the search giant will be forced to up its game.”
The gist of the EU’s charges come down to that it believes Google is unfairly favoring its own search results over competitors. For example, consumers shopping for “smartphones” will see Google Shopping results on the top of the page above Amazon results. Same for someone searching, say, for a flight. The user would see the Google Flights search service show up above other travel search engines like Expedia.
Even if EU regulators rule against Google—which is not guaranteed at all—how could they enforce it?
A “theoretically possible” solution would be forcing the company to rank services “impartially” in search results, wrote James Cordwell, an analyst at Atlantic Equities, in a report. But “auditing this arrangement could be difficult and resource-intensive, something both Google and the EU may be keen to avoid.”
“This auditing issue could be addressed by forcing Google to split into separate search and publishing arms, but this would seem unduly draconian and politically challenging,” Cordwell said.
Google is no stranger to the EU’s tougher regulatory environment, but the latest charges could weigh more heavily on the company if it is forced to make significant changes to how its search engine works.
“This has been an overhang on Google’s stock for the last three to four years, so it’s not a surprise in terms of a catalyst itself, but now it’s an official catalyst, an official overhang,” said Mark Mahaney, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, on CNBC Wednesday.
“But there are fundamental issues this raises for Google. If there’s a change in business practices with their algorithms in trying to perfect customer satisfaction on the page, if someone is going to step in and try to regulate that ability away that should be a negative for Google long term,” he said.